MLS- Philadelphia Union

Nowak to be named Philadelphia Union's first head coach

Peter Nowak (ISIphotos.com) 

                                                                          Photo by ISIphotos.com

The MLS expansion Philadelphia Union has selected its first head coach and it has chosen a man with championship experience and a gritty style perfectly-suited for his new home.

Philadelphia will introduce Peter Nowak as its first head coach at a press conference on Friday, sources with knowledge of the hire told Soccer By Ives on Wednesday. Nowak, the only man to ever win an MLS Cup as a player and head coach, is leaving his post as U.S. national team assistant coach to take over as head coach for the Union, which is set to begin play in 2010.

Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz would not confirm the hire when contacted on Wednesday. Nowak, 44, was not with the U.S. national team in Miami on Wednesday at its first training session ahead of its upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras.

A decorated player for the Polish national team, Nowak left a long career in Europe to play in MLS, which he joined in 1998 with the Chicago Fire. Nowak captained the Fire to the 1998 MLS Cup title and U.S. Open Cup title, earning a reputation as one of the best central midfielders in the league.

Nowak made a seamless transition to coaching, taking over as D.C. United head coach just one year after completing a five-year career with the Fire. Known for his no-nonsense approach, Nowak led D.C. to the MLS Cup title in 2004, his first season in charge. He spent three years as D.C. United’s head coach, compiling a 42-27-25 record during that time.

Nowak left D.C. after the 2006 season, choosing to join Bob Bradley’s coaching staff after Bradley was named U.S. national team head coach. Nowak served as head coach of the U.S. Under-23 national team, guiding it to an appearance in the 2008 Olympics in China, where the United States finished 1-1-1.

What is my take? Philly scored a major victory with the hiring of Nowak, who has had the chance to continue growing as a coach during his time with the U.S. national team. Once considered a taskmaster who struggled to work with young players in D.C., Nowak benefited from his time as U.S. Olympic team coach and developed a good rapport with the U.S. team's young players. He is considered in some circles as a more well-rounded coach than when he led D.C. to the 2004 MLS Cup title. Throw in Nowak's tough guy demeanor in a market like Philadelphia and it has all the makings of the perfect hire.

What do you think of the hire? Is Nowak the right man to lead the Philly Union? Will his hire add more fuel to the natural rivalry with D.C. United?

Share your thoughts below.

  • Victor

    Ives, who do you maybe see stepping in for the assistant coaching spot now for Nowak for the National team? Any foreign influence or do we still in the States?


  • Bootsy

    It’s certainly a good choice for Philly. But I’m surprised that he wanted to do it, because this means he won’t be assisting in South Africa in 2010.


  • Max J.

    Nice move by Philly. The team should be happy, the legs of future Union players probably shouldn’t


  • kpugs

    I admit that I already hate this team that barely exists. BUT, this is one of the best head coaching decisions in the history of Philadelphian sports.

    And I’m not a total jerk, I did consider the positives he brings to every game before saying that. He’s good for the team, but perfectly matches the city.


  • Roger Van Gool

    Nowak is essentially going to be a coach with the final say on personnel decisions as opposed to being playing second fiddle to Bob Bradley on the USMNT for the next few years – it is great hire for Philly.


  • Michael Vann

    Very good pick for Philly. A smart move. Kudos to them. It wasn’t much of a secret. I think he was probably most people’s logical choice. He was mine. Nowak obviously knows the league and the American player extremely well and this will be a big help to building the club. Nowak’s tactics don’t always thrill me as they can be bland but he does get the job done. That’s most important. Nowak is a class guy from what you read and here so he’ll be a great ambassador for the club and city. I do kinda feel for Paul Mariner. It sucks if he was passed over. But eventually he’ll get a team. Sooner than later I’m sure. Bradley will have to find a replacement. I just wonder who steps up. Rongen would be a logical choice. But I suspect Mike Sorber will move up a couple of seats and be Bradley’s right hand man. Rongen’s role with the U-20’s might conflict.


  • Eric Sornoso

    Great Move by Philly. Ives, What is up with these expansion teams? Toronto, Seattle, San Jose (Not So Much), and soon Philly will create havoc for the rest of the MLS.


  • Ossington Mental Youth

    very impressive pick

    this coupled with the Seedorf rumors makes for a potentially good team, yes i know im counting chickens before they hatch. I do however like to see increasingly better expansion teams on the field


  • aristotle

    Does this mean he won’t take over the USMNT when Bradley is bounced unceremoniously from the World Cup in the first round? Actually, maybe Nowak decided it wouldn’t be good for him to be a part of that, and thought he might get part of the blame.

    Great choice for Philadelphia, who I hate because of their stupid name! 🙂

    I was just wondering. Will this team go on strike if they don’t like their contracts and working conditions?


  • JoeW

    1. I think the world of Nowak. He will make a team that contests for every game, that wants to win everything, where effort and heart is rewarded. He emphasizes small details, he cares passionately about results, he wants to win every single trophy there is. He lives for competition.

    2. I don’t know if this will be an immediately successful choice. I don’t know that Nowak has a strength in picking personnel (it was Kevin Payne who made the call to re-sign Jaime Moreno after he was let go by the Metros, apparently with his career about to end). Separate from that, I’ve always felt that Nick Sackowicz is almost as bad as Alexl Lalas as a GM. Even if Nowak makes the personnel decisions, Sackowicz runs the organization and can easily undercut Nowak.

    I think Nowak does a superb job of taking the talent he’s given and finding a way to bring out the best in that talent by putting it in positions (often times new ones) that allows those players to shine. Under Nowak, Eskandarian become a factor, Brian Carroll developed into an hidden star, Ben Olsen rediscovered his career as a holding mid. But in terms of discovering new talent, signing guys–not so much.

    3. I have a hard time seeing Rongen become the NT asst. coach. I think there are a lot of options. Bradley is likely to want someone who’s a student of the game, willing to watch video (or respect BB’s anal retentive nature) and work well with him. Nowak and Bradley always got along well–really connected.

    Here’s my suggestion and best guess for a NT assistant for Bradley: Preki. The two get along very well. Preki is clearly perceptive and does well with role players and workmanship guys. They play similar systems (outside backs getting forward, 2 holding mids, teams where everyone defends). And they already have a history together. In the meantime, I think you see one of the USSF staff coaches step up for the Gold Cup, another for the Confed Cup but Preki comes on board after the MLS season ends in time for the January camp and WC qualifying.


  • DC Josh

    The US will miss him surely, an amazing coach.

    I am one who will be voting for him to get in the pilot seat when Bob Bradley is out of the picture, whenever that is. I love the way his teams play soccer.

    Great start for the Union, maybe with a few great pickups they can make an impact like the Sounders have.


  • zongzap

    Good move for Philly, Good move for Nowak.

    Perfect time to distance himself from the US program and Bradley. When the crash starts in June, he won’t be blamed and when the big broom starts cleaning house, he may be in a good position to become “the man”

    I’ve always wondered if he was under Bradley’s thumb with the U-23’s. Nobody wants someone else pulling their strings forever


  • vasco

    Damn, was always hoping he would come back to DC. Great guy, having met him a couple of times.

    Peter should go over well in philadlphia, and Delaware.

    Great Hire Union


  • Joe Portugal

    I think this is obviously a great hire for an expansion team like Philly. It’s good to get someone with experience, I mean look at Seattle with Sigi. They didn’t do half bad with hiring him.

    Only question is, would Nowak be the guy in charge of the franchise? I haven’t heard of any General Manager or anything else. So would he be like Bruce Arena in LA and have total control of the franchise? I’d guess that is what Nowak wanted but it seems like a huge leap of faith. So that part of it I’m a little iffy on. It’d be a hard sell to hire a GM now with a coach already in place.


  • Michael F. - SBI Mafia Original

    It’s funny, expansion teams like Seattle and Philly get proven winners for their coaches. RBNY ends up with Osorio. Ugh. We are truly cursed.


  • jtd

    Joe W- Preki would be a great choice. I’ve been wanting him to get involved with mnt for years. hopefully this will be the right situation. although, i’d miss him at chivas.

    Philly- For the first time in the leagues existence, i genuinely feel compelled to hate a team. i see philly in the headline and disdain washes over me. and it’s actually personel, not fabricated.

    f*** philly!


  • krolpolski

    As a Fire fan I can only curse like a drunken Manchster United fan right now.


  • Jose A. V.

    Good move Philly, At least he doent mess with National teams like U23.


  • Jose A. V.

    You guys are kuku to think he should coach the National team in the fututre.


  • Wispy

    JoeW — good assessment. I agree with everything you said except that WC qualifying is over by the time the USMNT January camp comes around.


  • Adam M.

    Philly is doing everything right so far. But its Philly, so it probably won’t last.


  • BlueWhiteLion

    kpugs–I am too dull to deftly interpret the in and out weave of your sarcasm, or apparent sarcasm, or whatever. But, an intriguing post, nonetheless.

    Good hire for Philly, tough timing (but not too bad) for the USMNT.

    I love the extreme hatred being displayed by some of our more astute posters.


  • JoeW

    1. Kropolski–you should learn to avoid redundant phrasing. “Drunken Manchester United Fan”–really! As soon as you write “Manchester United fan” there is no need to write “drunken.” It’s like writing “human being homo sapien” “incompetent Red Bulls management”.

    2. For those saying he’s timing his departure right, to avoid the stench of WC defeat or he hated being under Bradley’s thumb–you don’t know Nowak. First, Nowak has never walked away from a challenge. Infact, when he’s walked away (like the DC United gig) it had more to do with feeling like “been there, done that” (ie: his competitive fires seeking something else) combined with pride. Second, Nowak and Bradley REALLY get along–they’re a great pair. Much like Nowak and Soehn really get along. There is tremendous trust, good-will and comptability there (different skills and behaviors but they work well as teams). Bradley always allowed Nowak a lot more free rein within the clubhouse and on the field than most people would expect.

    I think this decision (taking an MLS club gig) is really simple: the competitive fire burns bright in Piotr Nowak’s heart. As much as he wants to be part of a WC, he also wants a challenge, he needs a challenge. He probably looked at what Sigi did with Seattle and thought “hmm…I bet I could do better–I bet I could do Chicago Fire II” and started scheming out how. And being an MLS coach will pay significantly better than being an MLS assistant.

    Nowak wants someday to be the NT coach of Poland. He may have concluded that option is no longer there (and thus why be a NT assistant with a few games a year when you can be an MLS head coach with 45-50 games a year). Or he may have been told he doesn’t have enough head coaching experience to be seriously considered by Poland now.

    And as much as I like Nowak, politically speaking I’d think that Sigi Schmid and probably even Klinsi would be at the head of the line if Bradley were to leave/get fired. Schmid is a long-time USSF staff coach at many levels. He’s stated that he desires that job. He was lined up to be Klinsman’s assistant. Seattle is only west coast but NT coach–he’s operate out of LA and he’d truly be home. As for Klinsman, he has said that he and his family are in Germany and will stay there. Even if that’s true, I’d expect Gulati to make another run at Klinsman. And that’s exactly the sort of thing that Nowak’s pride wouldn’t allow. It’s not that Nowak has a huge ego, it’s that he probably feels that if he’s not your first choice, he’d never have the clout necessary to have a “seat at the table” when big decisions got made or when there were the inevitable internal disputes.


  • whatagame

    A Washington Post columnist once stated that “if there hadn’t been a Napoleon, they would call it a Nowakian complex”. I always loved that line.


  • Jersey Scouser

    This is a terrible choice. He’s the MLS version of Larry Brown. He will not play the young guys and will field a team of older vets. Just because he coached the young ones at the Olympics means nothing. Plus he coaches ugly soccer. I can’t see him lasting more than a year. They should have gone outside of the league and picked someone w/o MLS experience but not top tier European experience. You can’t tell me that you could have not found a colaship or other 2nd division euro coach that has won a trophy or two to come over.


  • yankiboy

    Good luck to Nowak. He will need it. Coz I am not so confident in his ability to do a Seattle Sounders or Chicago Fire sequel city of Brotherly Love style.

    @Jersey Scouser: the problem with bringing a guy over is that most of the guys that you are recommending would have an incredibly tough time trying to grasp things like “salary cap”, a “draft”, and other things which are unique to MLS. As LA and other experiments have shown, it ain’t always the best move.


  • Gary

    weak. i was pulling for him to replace JCO. scum or not, JCO’s gotta go.


  • NJ futbol fan- Robin

    I am suprised at all the positive feedback. I expect Nowak to feild a team of players with little ball skill using lots of long passes in the air. No real plan-just like he said on TV… Winning is all that’s important. Run faster,jump higher, and knock the other guy down more. I wish I could get my $300 season ticket deposit back. UGH!!!!!!!!


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