Union use bye week to recharge, refocus after slow start

CHESTER, Pa. – An early-season bye week could not come at a better time for the Philadelphia Union.

After going winless in their first four outings to start the 2012 campaign, the Union (0-3-1) plan to recharge their batteries and return a better team after two full weeks off between games. That’s not exactly groundbreaking, of course, but it’s Philly’s only option after such a slow start.

“That’s the plan,” Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s what we all hope for. Hopefully, we can take this extended break and refocus and try to start this as a new season."

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Philadelphia, who are coming off a scoreless draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps on March 31, sit idle this weekend, returning to action on April 14 with a home game against Columbus.

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Because of the long layoff, Union manager Peter Nowak admitted practices were a little different this week, focusing more on regeneration and less on tactics.

“We just wanted to let them play, keep the intensity up, keep it short and keep them in a good mindset as well,” Nowak said after a 45-minute session on Wednesday.

Before Wednesday’s practice, the Union had three days off following the weekend’s scoreless draw. It was, the players say, a stretch that was very much needed and very much appreciated.

“We got a couple of days to get our minds off of things,” Philly’s Gabriel Farfan said. “Everybody’s bodies are well-rested now, so it’s time to get back at it.”

Starting Monday, the Union will return to their normal practice routine and begin preparations for Columbus. Nowak said they’ll also continue to stress taking shots from distance, which could help kickstart an offense that has been mostly stagnant so far this season.

“The more shots you take, you never know what will happen,” Nowak said. “A deflection here, a deflection there, then all of a sudden the ball is in the goal.

“I think it’s a good situation,” the Union manager added of the bye week. “I think it’s going to give us time to assess where we are after these four games. We’ll correct the things we need to correct.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.