Union Make No Apologies for Playing Hard


Much has been said about the physicality of Philadelphia Union in the club’s debut last week in Seattle. The club isn’t planning to change that, but physical play shouldn’t be confused with dirty play. 

“This is a physical game all over the world and we plan to be a competitive team,” said Team Manager Peter Nowak. “I won’t tolerate cheap shots from our players, but that’s not how we played if you take a look at footage from the Seattle game. We played tough, hard-nosed football. We’re going to go at people. Get used to it.”

One play in particular has created much controversy, namely Toni Stahl’s first yellow card, a call Nowak believes was aided by a hefty dose of embellishment.

Nowak was known for his no-nonsense attitude as a player, leading the expansion Chicago Fire to an MLS Cup title in 1998. His mindset isn’t any different as a manager, and he’ll be the first to tell you it won’t change anytime soon.

“I believe there’s only one way to play this game and it’s not by flopping and begging the referee for calls. There’s no room for that in this game and it shouldn’t be tolerated. All I can tell our guys is to go out and play with 100% effort every second of every match. If we do that, the rest will take care of itself and the results will come.”

Philadelphia Union will look for three points on April 10th against D.C. United, a match that will kick-off a long-anticipated Eastern Conference rivalry. The historic Home Opener will be the first opportunity for fans to fully embrace their club, and all indications point to the Union playing a brand of soccer that will resonate with its supporters. 

“Philadelphia is a hard-nosed city and expects it’s teams to play with that same attitude. They appreciate the type of effort and the style of play that we’ll bring to every match,” added Nowak. “We don’t play physical just for the sake of playing physical though. That type of play is a byproduct of working hard, and as I’ve said many times it’s the only way that’s acceptable for our club. 

“If you’re not ready to play that way, you won’t be playing for us. If the rest of the League isn’t ready for that, I’m confident we’ll prove it’s an approach that works over the course of a season.”

Nowak’s attitude is exactly what Chairman Jay Sugarman and CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz knew a young club needed to ensure that the right culture was established even before a single player was acquired.

So Sakiewicz went out and found the perfect man for the job.

“Peter epitomizes the core values that we are building our organization around,” he explained when Nowak was first brought on board. “His fierce competitiveness will translate to the pitch and resonate powerfully with our loyal supporters and all soccer fans in the Philadelphia region.

"Peter's toughness and attacking style of play on both ends of the pitch mirror the hard-working attitude of our fans and the entire Philadelphia region. Peter demands that his teams play with a clear purpose, combining creativity with a relentlessness that breeds success.

And that’s Nowak’s approach in a nutshell - relentless. It’s the only way he knows.

“I believe in hard work,” Nowak said when he was introduced as Philadelphia Union’s Team Manager in May 2009. “Teams I have coached in the past know this and that’s what I intend to do with this team. They will know what to expect.”

You better believe that Union fans and the rest of the League will soon know what to expect as well. In fact, they probably already do.

To steal a line from Nowak, get used to it.


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