Philadelphia Union’s playoff hopes have appeared dim for at least the last few weeks, but it wasn’t official until Saturday when Seattle’s 3-2 victory over Toronto sealed the deal before Philadelphia’s 1-1 draw vs Houston was even over.
Manager Peter Nowak put things into perspective after the match, acknowledging the club’s disappointment but also pointing out reasons to be optimistic about his young expansion side.
“Listen, it is always disappointing when you are not making the playoffs,” he said after the match. “We still believed and we deserved better (from some matches over the course of the season), but when you look around at what we have and how we built this team and this franchise, … we are still number three beyond Seattle last year and Chicago in 1998 (in terms of expansion success).”
The Union’s first season in existence has been frustrating at times, no doubt, but there have also been a number of positives. To name a few: the emergence of Sebastien Le Toux as a legitimate superstar, Danny Mwanga’s Rookie of the Year caliber season, a plethora of rising young stars, an exciting brand of attacking soccer, a rabid fan base and a beautiful stadium, among others.
“So, with all the negatives, the goals we gave up, unnecessary goals and unnecessary mistakes, we still have made enough progress,” Nowak continued. “Of course we expected a little bit more than this and with the last three games to play we are going to play for the next year and make sure that we built something that at the end of the day will pay off next year.
“We believe that with you, the media, and fans who support us no matter what, that we have something special. How are we going to move forward? Of course everyone is expecting good results and the way we play is not going to change from our standpoint. The team is not going to get worse, it will only be better."
Nowak's last point is precisely what makes this expansion season a success. As strong as the Union have looked at times this year, the club is just beginning to hit their stride and nowhere near reaching their full potential. If Philadelphia can take just another step or two in their last three matches against elite competition, it’ll be hard to argue with the results in Year One.
“We were supposed to get more points and we were still supposed to be in the playoff race,” Nowak said. “That is not the case anymore, so now it is (about) what we are going to take into next season and how we are going to handle three very good games against Los Angeles, New York, and Columbus in Columbus. So we will try to find the answers to who and what (we are going to be) for the next year.”