Nowak demands "fight" out of Union against Vancouver
CHESTER, Pa. – Peter Nowak didn’t mention the name Sébastien Le Toux once during his weekly press conference Wednesday.
What the Philadelphia Union manager did mention, over and over again, was the phrase “fighting spirit.” And that’s exactly what he wants to see from his team when Le Toux and the Vancouver Whitecaps pay a visit to PPL Park for Saturday’s highly anticipated showdown (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“One thing we need to get back is our fighting spirit,” Nowak said. “Nobody in this room can guarantee the wins, especially in this business. What we can guarantee is we’ll fight. … The most important thing right now is to inject confidence, inject a fighting spirit. We’re going to fight for each ball, fight for each other. … We’ve got to keep fighting and be confident – that’s all we can do.”
Now would certainly be a good time for Nowak’s troops to come alive. Heading into Saturday’s game, the Union are 0-3-0 on the season and face a red-hot Vancouver team that currently sits atop the Western Conference with a 2-0-1 mark.
And then there’s the never-dying saga surrounding Le Toux, the striker and former Union star who makes his return to PPL Park after being traded to Vancouver in the offseason.
Nowak and the Union players are trying to treat this like any other game, but forward Jack McInerney admitted it would be nice for one of the team’s strikers to score and help fans forget about the man who led Philly in goals and assists in their first two seasons.
“The burden was on Seba before, so I think they’re kind of looking for someone else to take that role and put in some goals,” McInerney said. “So I think if one of us can get one or two, it would be good for the team overall.”
That, of course, may be difficult since the Whitecaps have registered three straight clean sheets to start the season. They are the only team in MLS that has yet to allow a goal.
“I think defensively they have a pretty steady backline,” Nowak said. “They have a good balance between defending and going forward.”
Still, even though both teams are going in different directions, it would be foolish to think the Whitecaps are the prohibitive favorites for Saturday’s game.
For one, they’ll be without premier forward Eric Hassli, who didn’t make the trip to Philly because of an ankle injury. And Vancouver’s only road win in their short franchise history came two weeks ago against Chivas USA, while the Union remain a dominant team at home.
And if there’s one thing the Union will do Saturday, it’s fight. Nowak won’t have it any other way.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” Philly center back Carlos Valdés said. “I think this is our moment.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.