CHESTER, Pa. — Peter Nowak spent five years as a player on the Fire and remains close with people in the Chicago organization.
But when his old team comes to PPL Park for a Saturday night game against his new team (8 pm ET, Galavisión), the Philadelphia Union manager will be thinking about only one thing: snapping Philly’s three-game winless streak against a Chicago club he knows is better than their 1-3-5 record indicates
“For me, I don’t look at the games from a personal standpoint,” Nowak said. “Last year, we played a very good game in Chicago that we shouldn’t have lost. Then, we played a very good game at home for our first shutout. I don’t expect anything different. I know it will be a battle.”
Nowak called the Fire “unlucky” and heaped praise upon Chicago midfielder Marco Pappa, who has four goals this season and, according to the Union manager, “can always create a lot of things.”
And even though the Fire are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, they’ve reeled off four straight draws and haven’t lost since the middle of April.
The Union, meanwhile, are coming off their worst defeat of the season: a 2-0 rout at Dallas last Saturday.
“We started to lose our edge,” Nowak said. “And as soon as we start to lose our edge, other teams start to pick it up. I think that was a good wakeup call for us.”
Luckily for the Union (4-2-3), they are still just one point out of first place, thanks mostly to a hot start to the season. They are also one of just five clubs that have yet to lose in their home stadium.
But considering the Union have scored only six goals all season, Nowak knows there’s a lot of work still to be done. And for him, seeing the club improve is far more important than getting a measure of revenge against old friends.
“In some capacity, maybe we thought it would be easy after a couple of wins,” Nowak said. “We have to go back to basics like we did before the season started, and as a group we need to make the game difficult for the other team. … This is the message for the Chicago game. I don’t treat this personally. I look at it as a game against a good Chicago team where we need to have a good game on our side for a full 90 minutes.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.