Nowak wants more from Pajoy against rolling Quakes
CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union have been on a roll the past couple of weeks. But it’s nothing compared to what the San Jose Earthquakes have been doing.
Heading into Saturday’s game against host Philly at PPL Park (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE), the Quakes (5-1-1) are tied for first place in the Western Conference, unbeaten in their last five outings and fresh off an impressive 3-1 triumph against Real Salt Lake last weekend.
Consider Union manager Peter Nowak among those impressed.
WATCH: Philly on tough San Jose test
“The results are very clear,” said Nowak, who will serve the first of his two-game suspension this weekend for leaving the team’s technical area during last Saturday’s game. “They’re in good spirits and they’re winning games and we’ve got to make sure we’re going to play another good game.”
Like the past couple of years, the Earthquakes are led by Chris Wondolowski, who’s tied for the league lead with eight goals. But San Jose are clicking on all other cylinders as well – a far cry from last season when they failed to even qualify for the playoffs.
“Every year, there are surprises,” Nowak said. “Vancouver is in the same boat; they’re still having results that no one really expected. There are a couple of teams like that. For us, we just have to work at certain things.”
One of those things is scoring goals.
While Philly’s defense has led the team to three straight shutouts, the Union (2-3-1) are tied for last in the league with just four goals scored this season, and they have yet to enjoy a multi-goal game.
This week, Nowak mentioned Lionard Pajoy as a player he’s counting on to help turn the offense around. So far this season, Pajoy has played all but one minute – often as a lone striker – but has scored just once and has only taken two shots on net.
“Battling every single game [against] two defenders, three defenders is not an easy job to do, but he’s done a great job,” Nowak said. “All I will say is he needs to look more to score goals. He needs to go behind defenders. He needs to stretch the lines.”
Still, with Freddy Adu, Michael Farfan and others starting to gain traction in the attacking midfield – and the defensive midfield and backline keeping the opposition’s scoring chances to a minimum – Nowak said he’s been pleased with his team’s progression after losing the first three games of the year.
Now the goals just need to come.
“I think we’ve been pushing pretty hard in the last couple of weeks,” Nowak said. “And I think our understanding is that we have to make another step forward offensively.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.