CHESTER, Pa. -- Fresh off a celebratory and challenging week that saw them fare remarkably well against international sides Everton and Real Madrid, the Union find themselves abruptly back in the thick of league play.
Yet as they get set to host the scrappy Colorado Rapids on Friday night at PPL Park, coach Peter Nowak put little stock in his teams need to refocus and shrugged off the possibility of falling into the quick turnaround trap.
My message to the players right after the Real Madrid game is that everything is nice and fine, peachy and rosy, but you still have to get your feet on the ground, said Nowak, whose squad lost to Real, 2-1, at Lincoln Financial Field last Saturday. If you think the Rapids game is going to be same as the Real Madrid game, youre wrong. The games we have in Major League Soccer are about fighting, running, scrapping for points and scrapping for plays and tackles. Thats how you win the game. I dont think we ever lost this edge, so I didnt need to interfere.
And the Union will need all the gritty competition they can muster against the Western Conference Rapids, who are 2-1-3 in their last six games and sit fifth in the conference with a 7-6-10 overall record. However, the Rapids, who tied the Union, 1-1, on June 4, will be without primary striker Conor Casey, who tore his Achilles tendon on July 16 against the Seattle Sounders. Casey, who still leads the team in goals with six, is out for the season.
Conor Casey of course is an integral part of Colorado and was instrumental for them in winning the MLS Cup last year, said Nowak. But as they showed in their 4-1 win on July 20 versus New York Red Bulls, they are capable of scoring goals. They have a couple speedsters up front (in Caleb Folan and Omar Cummings) and are a very competitive team from back to front. Itll be another fight and a challenging game.
For the first-place Union, providing fight shouldnt be an issue. With an undefeated record of 5-0-4 at PPL Park and 8-4-7 overall, the Union have done well to grind points. The second-year team is coming off a convincing 3-0 road win over the New England Revolution and 1-0 victory over Everton. They have just one loss in their last 12 MLS matches.
With confidence brewing and their success rising, Nowak took it easy on his young group during All-Star week.
This week was more about maintaining the confidence from the last week, with the game against New England, Everton and the good game against Real Madrid, said Nowak. We went over the things what we had to do tactically and physically it was an easy week for all of us.
Led by striker Carlos Ruiz in goals with six, the Union offense could receive a boost in the way of returning of attacking midfielder Veljko Paunovic, who was gaining momentum by grabbing a goal and assist in four games before going down with a hip injury after the July 2 game against DC United.
Veljko is recovering, well try to see tomorrow, said Nowak. We didnt make a decision how well proceed because we have another game on Wednesday and another next Saturday. Its a tricky thing. Well try to give him some time, maybe, tomorrow Im not sure about starting, but we try to manage this in the right away in not just this game but the next two games as well.
With the MLS transfer window open and the Union looking to improve their roster for a run at the postseason, someone, according to Nowak, had to move on. That low man happened to be third-string goalkeeper Thorne Holder, who was released on Tuesday after appearing in no matches for the Union.
Were in the middle of the transfer window, so in order to accomplish something necessary, because of the restrictions, you have got to make some moves, said the coach. That was part of our thinking and were still looking. It could be a week or two, but well try to do it before the window shuts down.
Its unknown what the Union could be looking for on the open market, but releasing Holder, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, does open an international roster spot, which could be handy should Nowak and the Union choose to go in that direction.
However, despite the business end of the deal, releasing Holder, who was well-liked in the locker room, was a tough one for Nowak.
Its always a hard thing, he said. The trades, waivers, we are with these guys every single day and if you have a guy who comes in every single day with a great mentality and is great in the clubhouse, its difficult to part ways. Its never going to be easy. Its not that we dont need him, but we cant pull rabbit out of the hat if we dont have resources. Thorne was a great guy in the locker room, but unfortunately he didnt see many minutes or many games.
The US Mens National Team announced on Thursday that coach Bob Bradley was relieved of his duties after five years of service to the team. Bradley earned a 43-25-12 record during that span.
We want to thank Bob Bradley for his service and dedication to U.S. Soccer during the past five years, US Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in the official release. During his time as the head coach of our Mens National Team he led the team to a number of accomplishments, but we felt now was the right time for us to make a change.
This moves comes just 13 days before the US takes on rival Mexico in a friendly at Lincoln Financial Field on August 10, spicing up the already anticipated engagement. US Soccer will have more information regarding future plans and the release on Friday.
E-mail Ryan Bright at email@example.com