Deep breaths. Deeeeeeep breaths.
There, I’m calm see? Totally calm. I’m an ocean of blue tranquility, an oasis in a desert of chaos, a cliff of calmness being beaten upon by the seas of anger. I can handle this. I can deal.
So please undo the restraints on the straight jacket okay?
Let’s get some things out of the way here folks. I am NOT HAPPY with Sunday’s result. This wasn’t a “good loss” what do I mean by a “good loss”? A good loss is losing a game that was hard fought all the way through. You lose from an amazing goal, or a lucky shot, something like that. You walk out of the stadium and say, “Damn, it sucks that we lost, but it was a good game.”
Sunday’s game wasn’t one of those.
Let me point out something to you all that I’ve been hearing since the Portland game and I’m going to shoot it down right now.
“Zac MacMath is learning right now! He needs time!”
First of all, I’m not against giving MacMath time. Hell, I was willing to give Chris Seitz time during the 2010 season. I’m not in any way saying that MacMath should be benched.
But let’s get real for a moment.
MacMath is not a rookie goal keeper, he started 8 games last season and as people nearly violently told me, he was ready to start this year and hey, I agreed. MacMath however needs to be held accountable for that first goal. He needs to be able to judge that he can’t catch it and just punch it out. He basically bobbled it right in front of Jaime Castillon who hit it home. If MacMath is going to be our starting goal keeper he needs to nip this crap in the ass right now. I was willing to excuse the tying goal against Portland due to the turf, slippery conditions, etc. However, this was a clear, beautiful sunny day. No excuses here. MacMath needs to be held responsible for that goal.
Futhermore, I also blame Chris Albright for that second goal. You’re a defender Chris, your sole job is to defend. As soon as you and Tony Cascio got into a footrace for the loose ball, I actually said aloud, “He’s not going to outrun him,” and sure enough a 33 year old defender with a history of knee injuries couldn’t out pace a 21 year old rookie. You failed to clear a ball a mere three feet out of bounds and instead basically did a beautiful pass to Cascio who then got a one on one opportunity with our goal keeper. Fantastic. I’m glad to see that we replaced Stefani Miglioranzi in the offseason (for those of you who think I’m being unfair, I would like to point out that the guy couldn’t clear the ball a mere three feet out of bounds and instead kept the ball in bounds and in fact damn near passed the ball ahead of him). Look Chris, I know you were excited to play in front of your hometown team, but you’ve GOT to do better then that.
The sad thing is, is that the Union overall didn’t play terrible. Yes, there were some bad passes but hey, it happens, its sports. However, where I want to spend most of this article is discussing the architect of this game, hell, this entire team.
When I saw the starting lineup, I noticed Chris Albright starting in place of our captain, Danny Califf. My first thought was that perhaps I had ingested a hot dog laced with LSD before the game but nope, there was Chris Albright, warming up with the team. Okay, I thought, maybe Califf is hurt and can’t play, I certainly wouldn’t want anything to happen where he aggravates an injury and-oh wait, there he is on the field warming up.
What the hell?
After the game I was very curious as to why Califf was riding the bench. Nowak has apparently said that Califf was injured. However, Danny Califf has supposedly said that he was cleared by team doctors and further “complicating” matters is the fact that Califf was not mentioned in any way on the injury report before the game. Hell, I can recall it because I saw it on the board before the game. Gabriel Farfan was out and Chris Albright was “questionable.”
So why exactly was a player who was “questionable” starting in this game? Furthermore, this is rapidly degenerating in to a “he said, she said” type of situation. Califf has said he wasn’t injured, Nowak said he was. However, the fact of the matter is, is that Califf was not on the injury report. Someone has said that Nowak has actually broken league rules by doing this. Do I care if Nowak broke the rules? No. I do not.
I’m more upset that Nowak has basically been exposed as a liar.
Seriously. Go find some of the things that he has said about Califf. Now look at Califf’s measured and frankly put, embarrassing amount of facts in his response. Combine this with Nowak’s handling of the Le Toux situation as well as the departure of Carlos Ruiz. Not to mention the hint that Mondragon’s departure may have partially stemmed from the atmosphere in the club house.
You noticing anything yet?
Let me put it like this. If you’ve been through over a dozen failed relationships recently and think that the people you were dating had nothing in common, there is a common factor there. You.
Nowak first raised my eyebrow when he blamed the fans for the departure of Carlos Ruiz. I got annoyed by it but sort of accepted it, because hey, some of us were hard on Carlos at times (myself included). Then the Le Toux sale happened. Now, say what you want about how Le Toux handled things after he left (and he wasn’t perfect, let’s be honest here) but frankly put I became very suspicious. I mean before the whole trade occurred, did any of us consider Le Toux a “whiner” or someone that really got out of line? (For me, it was just one time and I’ll get to that later) Furthermore, Le Toux saying that there was no communication from the club to him during the whole debacle. Now there is talk that Califf was yet to be spoken to by Nowak. What in the hell is going on?
Now some of you think I’m over reacting, that maybe I’m hitting the panic button and hey, fair enough. But tell me, how do you like being lied to? Some people have said that Califf deserved the benching after the Portland game. But hell, you can argue that half the team deserved to be benched after that match. It wasn’t exactly a good barometer for how well the team was doing considering it was played on turf and in an environment the Union isn’t familiar with. Last week’s game was, to me at least, a wash (har har, get it? Cause it was raining) this was the game where I would start to gauge how this team looks and as I said, it didn’t look bad. However, as time has gone on it seems more and more that Peter Nowak is the problem with the team. Once again he rotates the lineup, rotates starting players. This isn’t exactly good for chemistry and team morale. Not to mention having the professional courtesy to at least tell your captain that he isn’t playing at least the day before or hell, at least a few hours before the match.
Now, look, I’m not saying Nowak should be dumped…yet. I want to see how this team plays out this month. However, if we finish this month at 0-4-0 or hell, even 0-3-1 I will start to “question” Peter Nowak and I don’t mean “question” him in the way that Sean Hannity does about Barrack Obama. I mean in a fair and honest way. Things need to be questioned, especially in sports. Peter Nowak said that he has “no feelings” when it comes to players and hey, that’s a good thing to have in sports. In the modern era of sports, you can’t always have loyalty to a player despite what they’ve done for you and your franchise (see Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts). However, the organization shouldn’t have blind loyalty to its coach (going back to the Colts, Jim Caldwell was fired after three years in which he got the team a Super Bowl appearance in his first year and a playoff berth the year after). Hell, I’ve heard people start to question whether or not Charlie Manuel should be let go after this upcoming season if the Phillies don’t make it the World Series. People of course are calling for Andy Reid to not have his contract renewed if the Eagles don’t even sniff the Super Bowl this upcoming season. Both Manuel and Reid are coaches with proven track records, playoff wins and at least one championship. So why does Nowak get special status by some people?
The answer might be because he’s the guy that “built” this club. Nowak is our first and so far, only manager, people like stability and hey, that’s understandable. Change can be scary, change can suck. However, where exactly will we be if the All-Star break rolls around and we’re sitting at losing record, do we still give Nowak the benefit of the doubt? Where exactly is the point of no return for people that support Nowak? I’m actually curious about this and want to hear from you.
Finally, the question is, if we got rid of Nowak, who would we bring in? I can already put out a few names for you, Adrian Heath, the current head coach of Orlando FC who coached his team to a USL Professional Division Championship last season, Manny Lagos coach of the Minnesota Stars who won the NASL, you could even promote John Hackworth to the position if he did well enough as an interim manager.
Remember guys, soccer is a worldwide game, there are coaches out there. There are numerous coaches in the United States that would jump at the chance to lead an organization with the support and passion that the Philadelphia Union has. Nowak more and more is showing himself to be a tight lipped, ham fisted manager and while that approach might sometimes work with some teams it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that this approach doesn’t work with ours.
Now look, I don’t want anyone to misconstrue this article as some kind of bashing on the Union. I love the team, I love the players (yes, even you Freddy Adu). I support whomever takes the field, but I will not and will never hold back criticism from you if I feel that you’re not playing up to par. In fact, to prove it, this is literally, a quote from me on Big Soccer that I made last season during Le Toux’s scoring drought and after he said in an interview that he’d like to be partnered up with Mwanga up top as he was the previous season,
“Look Le Toux, I like you, you’re a nice guy. Good with the fans, seem to enjoy yourself at the club, but I’ll be honest with you. You’ve used up your chances here. You suck on corners and you suck on free kicks. If this were any other team you would have sat a game or two by now, you’ve yet to even be subbed out despite your lack of form. Assists are good, don’t mistake me, but you complained earlier in the season that you wanted to be paired up with Mwanga up top like last year. Honestly? You don’t get to bitch like that ever again. The only reason you get consistent play time is because of what you did last season and the fact that honestly? We don’t have any other options.”
So yes, even the most beloved Union player didn’t get a pass from me. If you play like crap, I will say you played like crap. End of story. The same thing goes for bad coaching. If the team turns it around and goes on an unbroken string of victories then no one will be happier then I and I’ll admit that Nowak was right. However, if these first two games are a sign of things to come, if Nowak loses the locker room then what are we as fans supposed to do? Accept it and say, “Well, Peter knows what he’s doing.”?
I flat out refuse to do that. I know what good and bad leadership can do for you, both in the office and playing sports. How many of you would be willing to go that extra mile in your job if you hated your boss? What makes you think professional athletes don’t think similarly? Now, you might say, “The players should be playing for the fans!” and your right, but Danny Califf, Sheanon Williams, Zac MacMath and company don’t go into the locker room and get spoken to from the fans. They don’t get called into the fan office and get reamed out by you or I because they played like dog crap in a recent game. No, Peter Nowak does that. Le Toux said more than he ever could at the end of one interview with this sentence, “I would be happy to just retire than play for Peter again.”
He didn’t say, “I would be happy to just retire than play for Philadelphia again,” no, he singled out Peter Nowak. Nowak seems to be slowly breaking off relationships with players that helped make the club what it is. It may eventually come to a point when Nowak wakes up and realizes that he’s all alone in that locker room because of how he acts towards and treats the players and when that day comes, we must all be prepared to break up with Peter Nowak.
– Matt Reppert