Philadelphia get an unexpected weekend of rest

Sebastien Le Toux

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CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union did not expect to have the weekend off. But they’re not complaining about it.

With Real Salt Lake competing in the CONCACAF Champions League final against Monterrey this past week and next, Philly’s scheduled game Saturday vs. RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium was moved to Sept. 3.

“For these guys, having a couple of days off will be good,” Union manager Peter Nowak said. “Not having a game this weekend is good. We have a few knocks here and there but there are no major issues for them. We’re treating this like a little preseason.”

While the extra rest will be beneficial, the bye week also means the team will have more time to think about the last-minute goal they conceded in a disappointing 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders last weekend. The Union’s next game – an April 30 clash against the San Jose Earthquakes at PPL Park – is still more than a week away.

In the meantime, Nowak is trying to get his club back to playing the exciting brand of attacking soccer they showcased last season – while remaining the defensive force that has pushed them to second place in the Eastern Conference.

Despite their 3-1-1 overall record, the Union have yet to score more than one goal in any game.

“I think we have to do some things automatically,” the Union manager said “I think we think too much in games right now. I think we’re conservative going forward because in some capacity we’re not sure we’re going to make it back. There are basic things we have to go back to because we didn’t do a good job in the last couple of weeks.”

Union standout Sebastien Le Toux has noticed that practices this week have been a little more physical because the players have the weekend to rest.

“When you’re a player you like to play games,” said Le Toux, adding he’ll take some time this weekend to enjoy the good weather that’s coming back to Philly. “But it’s good for us to recover a bit and work on the things we have to.”

Nowak also said the idle Union will pay close attention as Real Salt Lake tries to become the first MLS team to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup. After tying Monterrey, 2-2, in the first leg of the CONCACAF finals, RSL return home to face the Mexican club Wednesday in the second and final leg, with the Club World Cup berth on the line.

“Salt Lake is important to the whole league,” Nowak said. “We recognize that we are one league. There are different owners, different stadiums, different players – but we are still one league. We’re growing together as a league. It’s important for us to recognize that.”