CHESTER, Pa. – Not long after Monday’s 3-1 loss at Portland, Peter Nowak was already looking ahead.
Six days ahead, to be exact.
The Philadelphia Union manager was well aware of what transpired at JELD-WEN Field, but he wanted the club to stay positive because he knew the home opener would come quickly – Sunday against the Colorado Rapids at PPL Park (4 p.m., NBC Sports Network).
“We have to make sure we don’t just focus on (improving) one thing, we need to focus on the whole complex,” Nowak said during his weekly news conference. “As I said to these guys (post-game) in the locker room in Portland, the Colorado team is going to be even more physical than this team. The game is going to be fast, they're going to go up and down, they're capable of doing good things. We need to make sure we stay compact and organized.”
On July 29, 2011, the Rapids came to PPL Park and left with a 2-1 victory, another piece of information Nowak relayed to his club.
“We know what happened when we played them last season in July,” Nowak said. “They changed the system they play and the coach, so it’s a little different. We need to make sure the players will have all the information and get ready for the game, not just to match the physicality, but also knowing the weak point of the opponent. These are just the things we need to address to prepare them for the home opener.
“I’m sure they're going to be excited about the home opener and enjoy the crowd. We need to match the physicality and intensity of the game.”
The Union won’t have midfielders Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo for Sunday’s game as they joined U-23 U.S. Men’s National Team for the final camp before CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying.
The duo traveled to Nashville and could miss up to three matches (Sunday against Colorado, March 24 at Chicago and March 31 against Vancouver).
Midfielder Roger Torres (ankle) and defender Chris Albright (groin) are both expected to be available.
“We have our options,” Nowak said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching the whole preseason, that we need to find out the good combination of things. And I think we are capable of adjusting. Lio (Lionard Pajoy) was very helpful up front, but (the forwards) just need some more help."
While the Union were outplayed for much of the second half in Portland, Nowak believes his team had numerous opportunities to break the game open previously.
"In the first half, and I told them this in the locker room during halftime, we had a couple of open opportunities to play the pass that'll open more space for us," Nowak said. "There was one where Lionard Pajoy goes in the middle and (Brian) Carroll overlaps and basically finds himself alone. Lio didn’t see him and took a shot. A couple of times when Josue [Martinez] made a very good transition run nobody sees him. Porfirio [Lopez] missed a couple of passes to Lio from the left side where there was really a lot of space to get in a good position. So I said in the locker room, we need to have a feel for that and find the opening pass much better."
If all goes according to plan, that improvement will come as soon as Sunday.
"Everything can change from week to week," Nowak said. "We just need to be patient, we need to be stable and we need to believe in the way we do things here."