Nowak promises tough year ahead

Union look to build on opening preseason match

With one exhibition match in the books, a 5-0 win
against the University of North Carolina on Saturday night,
Philadelphia Union is taking lessons learned and looking ahead to the
rest of training camp.

“I wasn't happy
with the start of the UNC match and I let them know that,” said Team
Manager Peter Nowak. “They have to be ready to play from the very
beginning, but once we got going we played much better. Jack (McInerney)
played well but needs to finish more consistently. Sebastien (Le Toux)
looks good and I’m happy with how he’s adjusting.”

Overall, Nowak is pleased with his team’s progress, but
acknowledged that a difficult road lies ahead.

“The training has been great, but the mental strength
must be even better,” explained Nowak. “Training camp is long. We’re
going to train twice a day, sometimes even three times a day. Everyone
must breathe soccer 24 hours a day. The foundation established here in
North Carolina has been great. Now we’ll expand with the soccer part and
the mental part. The team unity is already there and they know each
other’s weaknesses and strengths. We will begin to give them information
about systems, tactics, tactical discipline. All of this must be
remembered and carried on throughout the season. We want to increase the
level of intensity starting with practice and then going into the

The technical staff is very
much focused on building a cohesive unit, but they’re also paying
attention to the players’ individual needs.

“We try to be creative so every player has his
individual workout,” continued Nowak. “Whether it be fitness or weight
room, we know what every player needs. The understanding from players
has been great and they know that each player needs to focus on certain
aspects a little bit more than others. But even though we focus on
individual elements, the primary goal is still building as a group.”

Developing versatility has also been key in the early
stages of camp. While Le Toux frequently played in the midfield for
Seattle last year, his hat trick against UNC shows he’s more than
capable of playing up top for Philadelphia Union. Toni Stahl has also
demonstrated a willingness to play multiple positions, being featured
effectively as a central defender with Shavar Thomas and Michael Orozco
both missing from the club’s backline against UNC.

“Toni is like Sebastien, a very versatile guy,” said
Nowak. “We talked to him before having him play defense. We want to see
how he can play in other positions because we know how he can play as a
midfielder. We want to expand his game. Having many guys like that is
good for us because you never know what will happen throughout the
season. We can’t go with just five defenders and have to make sure we
have options going into the season.”

Asked about Chris Seitz’s play in net, Nowak and
Assistant Coach/Goalkeeper Coordinator Rob Vartughian sounded happy with
all three goalies in camp. But how has Seitz looked?

“He looks big,” joked Nowak. “Seriously, Seitz, (Brad)
Knighton and (Brian) Perk all look good. We’re very happy. We’ll use a
rotation throughout this camp so that everyone will start a game.
They’ll all work together, regardless of who is number 1, 2, 3. There is
no front runner right now. At this point, I don’t believe in
establishing a number 1. We believe all three are very young, all three
need to be ready regardless of the day, month or part of the season.
They understand our point of view.”

Philadelphia Union set to head to Guadalajara, Mexico in the coming
days for its next leg of training camp, the club is preparing to be
tested in more game situations. UNC reached the semifinals of the 2009
NCAA College Cup, but Nowak and Co. know there will be even
tougher challenges ahead.