Peter Nowak is about to return to the scene of the crime.
The former Polish international spent the final four seasons of a glittering 23-year playing career in a Fire jersey. And in his first year in Chicago, the club’s inaugural season, he led them all the way to an MLS Cup championship.
Now that he’s managing Philadelphia in their first season, Nowak would rather focus on the efforts of his team on the pitch as they have a tough game ahead at Toyota Park on Saturday.
“It’s not about me,” said Nowak on a conference call. “I believe that it’s never going to be about me. Sometimes people try to make this stuff personal and attach this stuff to it. It doesn’t really matter. It’s about the players playing the game. Those guys need to understand that and to feel the concept of the teamwork and that our philosophy is a team. It’s never going to be about Peter Nowak.”
During his time in Chicago however, it certainly was. Winning an MLS Cup as an expansion team is no easy task, and then returning to the final the following year was probably even more difficult. He also helped the Fire win two US Open Cups during his tenure with the club.
Known for his ferocious style of play and unrelenting determination, Nowak was given the “hard-nosed” tag by some of his peers, one that has stuck through his time as a coach and now as manager of the Union.
Despite being branded as this strict authoritarian, Nowak hopes people realize he has another side and that when it comes down to it, he’s just interested in winning.
“I think the people have the wrong impression about me,” he joked. “I’m a very polite and humble guy. I think with the hard-nosed thing, everybody being in the sport, you know that everyone wants to win and be first. That’s required for the work and that’s required for the understanding. Every piece must be in place."
Nowak even likened how he was as a player and how he is now to one of Chicago’s greatest athletes: His Airness himself.
“Going back to Michael Jordan in Chicago,” he said, “I don’t think that his teammates loved to play with him or to train with him because he demands a lot of them and he demands the best.”
The main concern right now though is winning on Saturday. Going back to Chicago will be nice for Nowak, but it’s essentially just another road game that his team needs to win.
“I’ve been there with D.C. United and I’ve been there with the U.S. National Team, so it’s nothing really different being with the Union right now,” said Nowak of returning to the Windy City. “Business is business for me. The rest ... we’ll see on Saturday.”