CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak is pleased with the new players that he brought in for the 2012 season.
But there are certain early-season challenges that have come along with the team’s offseason acquisitions, especially the international ones.
“It’s not only the changes on the field,” Nowak said in his weekly press conference Wednesday. “I think it’s getting the housing together, getting the families together – it’s getting all of this stuff that is important in everyday life. … I’m sure that [soon] they’re going to be stable, they’re going to settle in and the soccer will be the primary objective on their minds. That’s what we want to accomplish.”
With all four of their first-year internationals in the starting lineup – Porfirio López, Gabriel Gómez, Josué Martínez and Lionard Pajoy – the new-look Union got off to a rough start to the season with a 3-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Monday.
Nowak, however, was quick to praise the play of Gómez in the midfield and Pajoy as the lone striker, and warned against drawing any negative conclusions after just one game.
“I think at the end of the season we can justify whether we made progress as a team or not,” the Union manager said. “I think we added the pieces we needed in the offseason.
“It’s just a different game, a different environment. And as fast as you’re going to get on the same page, the better. And I think we’re going to get there soon.”
The right kind of preseason?
Perhaps one thing that might have made the Union’s transition a little bit easier was a preseason schedule against MLS competition, like the Timbers and other teams around the league went through.
Nowak, though, rejected that idea, insisting that the club’s less-publicized exhibitions in Costa Rica hardened his players.
“Even if you go to Arizona or you go to LA, you’re going to play in front of 20 people, 50 people, you’re going to play on grass, you’re going to play on a beautiful, sunny pitch with palm trees and stuff,” Nowak said. “We went to Costa Rica just because we knew the referee was going to be not great, we knew that the field was going to be not great, we knew that the environment was going to be competitive. And it was.”
Healthy for home opener
With midfielders Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo gone for Olympic training, the Union could really use a healthy squad for the team’s PPL Park opener Sunday vs. Colorado (4 pm ET, NBC Sports).
Luckily for them, that appears to be the case.
Playmaking midfielder Roger Torres (ankle) and top defensive reserve Chris Albright (groin strain) didn’t make the trip to Portland because of minor injuries but Nowak said both players are fine.
“I expect him to be on the roster,” Nowak said of Torres.
As for Albright, the manager said that “he trained [Wednesday] and we don’t expect any kind of setbacks.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.