Nowak to bolster Philly's front line with extra strikers
CHESTER, Pa. – Fresh off their best offensive game of the season, the Philadelphia Union aren’t planning on taking their foot off the gas pedal.
Hoping to snap a three-game losing skid, Philly manager Peter Nowak said he plans on starting two “or maybe three” strikers for Saturday’s road tilt against FC Dallas (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) in an attempt to apply sustained pressure in the offensive third.
Nowak had been playing Lionard Pajoy (above) as a lone forward for much of the season, but switched to a two-striker formation against the Red Bulls last Sunday. The Union responded with their first multi-goal game of the year and a season-high 21 attempts on goal.
They also scored a pair of goals in last week’s friendly when they started with three forwards up top.
“I think in the Schalke game with Pajoy and Danny Mwanga and Josué Martínez was pretty good,” Nowak said. “With their speed and movement, I think we were pretty successful. So that’s a very good sign of how we’re going to move forward.”
WATCH: Pajoy buries his second goal against New York
Pajoy was especially dynamic last week. After scoring just one goal through his first eight games in MLS, the Colombian striker scored against Schalke and then notched a brace against the Red Bulls – and probably could have added more.
He fired eight shots vs. New York, four of which were on target. To put that in perspective, he only put three shots on goal in his first eight games, while playing almost every minute.
“I was a bit worried that I hadn’t been scoring as much as I’d like in the past couple of weeks, especially since what I like most in this game is to score goals,” Pajoy said through a translator. “One has to keep working hard and never lose hope.”
What changed for the 30-year-old Colombian? Getting assistance up top – primarily with Mwanga occupying the opposing center backs – certainly helped Pajoy get more space to operate.
Nowak also mentioned how Pajoy and the rest of the team’s MLS newcomers are finally starting to settle in with housing, schools and other off-the-field concerns, while Pajoy himself said “hard work and perseverance” has made the biggest difference.
The Union’s offense will be shorthanded without playmaking midfielder Freddy Adu, who will serve a one-game suspension for last week’s red card.
But Mwanga, who appears likely to start along with Pajoy on Saturday, believes the Union offense will continue to churn out the same kind of attack from last week.
“I’m 100 percent sure,” Mwanga said, “that we should be able to carry the same game played against New York with us to Dallas.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org