CHESTER, Pa. – Peter Nowak could have been frustrated that one of his veteran midfielders went down with a right hamstring strain the same day another returned from the exact same injury.
But the Philadelphia Union manager is not frustrated at all. Instead, he’s pleased that both Brian Carroll and Justin Mapp had the good sense to notify the coaching staff of their injuries before they got more serious.
Mapp missed a manageable three games – two MLS, one US Open Cup – before returning against the New York Red Bulls last Saturday. And Carroll is progressing nicely after taking himself out of the same game only minutes after it began.
“Brian is smart enough to figure that even though it’s difficult to make a substitution after five minutes, it’s a very responsible move for him to say, ‘I don’t need to stay in any longer because it’s going to get worse,’” Nowak said Wednesday from his weekly press conference at PPL Park. “This kind of mentality and responsibility is great for the team.”
Following Philly’s 1-0 win over New York, Carroll said the hamstring tweak was “bad luck” and “one of those freak things you can’t explain.”
Just a few days later, however, there was much more optimism surrounding the injury that sidelined the central midfielder who’s played such a big role in transforming the Union’s defense into one of the league’s best.
Nowak said Carroll practiced on Wednesday – though he didn’t sprint full-speed. He’s questionable for this Saturday’s game against Seattle (PPL Park, 4 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live).
“We’re going to manage it,” the Union manager said, “but he’s doing very well and the progress he made has been significant.”
If Carroll can’t go, Amobi Okugo will likely start in his place. Either way, now that Mapp is back patrolling the wing, the Union certainly have more flexibility in the midfield.
“As a competitor, you always want to be out there,” Mapp told MLSsoccer.com last Saturday. “You see other guys playing over the weekend and you don’t want to miss any action. But it’s part of it. It’s a long season. I’m trying to be healthy from here on out.”
That’s the kind of attitude Nowak likes from his players.
“We encourage guys to be honest with their situation,” the Union manager said. “If you feel something is not right, why do you need to be on the field occupying a spot from someone healthy and ready? If you’re not 100 percent and can’t make it a full 90 minutes, we have other guys in the locker room waiting for their chance.”