By JOEY SAMUEL
For two years, Sebastien Le Toux was the leading scorer and face of the franchise for the Philadelphia Union. The first season without him has seen the team's worst start in its short history. But coach Peter Nowak isn't thinking at all about the fact that Le Toux will return to face his former club at PPL Park this Saturday.
In his weekly press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Nowak quickly dismissed the importance of the fans' reception of Le Toux when he takes the field Saturday as a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
"Are you being serious or are you joking?" said Nowak. "Because I could look at it from two different perspectives. I don't know, maybe confetti, maybe banners, maybe a parade? Who knows? I have no idea. I am focused on our responsibilities."
After the first three games of the 2012 season, Philadelphia has zero points, its worst start in franchise history. And finishing in front of goal has been a particular problem, one that has many fans missing their former top scorer.
"I am sick of this 'face of the franchise' crap," Nowak said. "You know who is the face of the franchise? Our fans who come every week to support us. They are the face of this franchise. That's who we play for, not some individual player. I'm not dumb. I know fans loved (Le Toux) and will cheer him, but at the end of the day, it's about the team, our team, and that's where the focus should be."
NOWAK DECLARES CALIFF FIT FOR SATURDAY
After a bizarre feud and mysterious knee injury left Danny Califf out of the Union's last two games, it appears he will be back for the team's home game against Vancouver on Saturday.
"[He] is good to go," Nowak said "I think he's good. I think there's a good chance he'll play."
Nowak surprised everyone two weeks ago when he left Califf out of the starting lineup in the team's home opener against Colorado. He cited a need to rest Califf after offseason knee surgery, but Califf said that he was as surprised as anyone when he didn't play. The two made up in the days following that loss, but Califf once again was left out of the team's third game, a 1-0 away loss to Chicago.
OLYMPIC PLAYERS RETURN, BUT ADU NOT READY
While the U.S. under-23 national team suffered a devastating result in not qualifying to the 2012 Olympics, it wasn't necessarily bad news for Philadelphia. They will enjoy the return of three key contributors in right back Sheanon Williams and midfielders Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo.
But while Williams will be expected to return to the starting lineup and Okugo will also be available, Adu's status is still up in the air. Nowak said that Adu's three starts in five days with the Olympic team meant he may not be ready for Saturday's match.
"It's not an easy situation for these guys. I know how disappointed they all are," said Nowak. "But they are coming back to work and Freddy played long minutes in all three games in a very short period of time, and we are going to assess that and see where he is physically. The physical part only surrounds Freddy.
"I am sure Freddy would like to be a part of the team, but we need to talk to him first and assess where he is physically, and then we'll make our decision from that."