Union Hope Lessons Learned from Opener

Philadelphia has much room for improvement after Thursday's Loss

Peter Nowak, Philadelphia Union

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Nobody likes to lose. Despite the fact that Philadelphia Union were playing a man down for much of its first ever game in MLS’ toughest road environment, the club isn’t satisfied with a 2-0 defeat. Never will be.

But losses are a part of soccer, whether it’s a recreational game or a World Cup final. It’s how you learn from and bounce back from a loss that really matters. 

“There are some areas of our game that we definitely need polishing in,” said Captain Danny Califf after the loss. “But if we put that kind of effort into games, we’re going to get good results. It’s something we have to learn from and take with us into the next game. I think it’s good we have a couple weeks now to really ramp up and prepare tactically to get ready to open up at home.”

The MLS season is a long one, with seven months still to go and a number of important matches to be played. In truth, every match is important. Despite the intense anticipation leading up to the match, Thursday’s result has no greater influence on the club’s postseason chances than any other League game.

So what lessons can be learned and applied to get better results the rest of the way? 

One in particular is learning how to play with more controlled aggressiveness after the club picked up five yellow cards against Seattle. No one will ever doubt the physicality, work ethic and hunger Philadelphia has shown in preseason and against Seattle. That mentality is instilled from the club’s Technical Staff, led by Peter Nowak, a man who is known for being absolutely fearless both as a former player and now a Manager. 

“This is just the first game, first step,” said Nowak. “I believe it was a good lesson for all of us to make things better going forward. As I said to these guys in the locker room, this is just the beginning and we have to be smarter with our decisions.”

It’s not as if they’re molding a bunch of soft players either. Philadelphia Union’s roster was assembled to mirror the working-class attitude of the region. Not for the sake of doing so, but with a distinct goal to out-work and out-last other MLS clubs.

This is Philadelphia’s kind of team, through and through, right down to the core. It’s probably fair to say that the club’s discipline could improve, however, as Nowak himself stated. That’s to be expected though after just one game, especially given the abundance of youth and the hunger to succeed as an expansion team.

“I think it’s a combination of the two (being young and being an expansion team),” said Califf, when asked what factors contributed to the loss. “I wouldn’t know how to put a percentage on it, but for quite a few guys it was their first MLS game, and also the fact that we haven’t had a whole lot of high quality games in the preseason where we’ve been put under this kind of pressure. So it’s something that’s good to get out of the way and get out of our system early in the year. 

“These kinds of games are going to really prepare us for rest of the season. So on that note, I think it’s a big positive step in the right direction, with the way the guys reacted as far as working hard and working for each other.”

The next test will be on April 10th when Philadelphia fans will get to witness their hometown club in person for the first time. Emotions will be running sky high once again for the players and fans alike. 

We’ll see then what lessons have been learned.