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Union Notes: Farfan impresses at left back, Nowak defends choices and more



When the Philadelphia Union signed Costa Rican defender Porfirio Lopez in the offseason, he was supposed to be the long-term answer for the team at left back. But with four games completed already, it's seeming more likely that Gabriel Farfan will regain the starting spot he possessed last season.

The natural midfielder, who started most of the second half of 2011 at left back for the Union, impressed in Saturday's 0-0 draw with Vancouver, and after the game coach Peter Nowak stressed that if Farfan kept playing like that, the job would be his. Nowak continued to praise Farfan in his weekly press conference to reporters on Wednesday.

“Gabe was very good on both sides of the ball,” Nowak said. “He likes the position. He likes to move forward. He likes to take a chance and be on the offensive side of the ball. It’s a good combination. We can switch at the half or we can look to give him more time over there. We’ll see where we are.”

With another week off before the Union face the Columbus Crew on April 14, there's still time for Lopez and Farfan to battle it out in training for the starting spot. Lopez, however, has been victimized quite a few times in his first four starts in Major League Soccer, and Farfan is nipping at his heels to regain the spot that was once his.

More notes about the Union are after the jump:


With only one point from four matches, it's clear that the Union have been struggling mightily to start the season as the club searches for a winning formula. But on Wednesday, Nowak rejected the notion that he has been shuffling the lineup drastically from week to week.

"As we said from the beginning, this is the tree and you have the branches," Nowak said. "It's not like I am just switching guys and messing up the whole idea of how we play, but we look at what pieces we can add that will change the dynamic without destroying the structure of the core."

Nowak stressed the need to give playing time to the young core of the Union, so that it can develop into a cohesive unit, and so that the team can know which young players are good enough to be on the field with the veterans.

“The term 'shuffling' is an overhaul of the lineup from week-to-week, and that’s different than what we’re doing,” Nowak said. “You try to find the way that will inject life and enthusiasm into the lineup instead of just knowing the first 11. That’s not the way we work and how we find out about these youngsters."


Carlos Valdes has taken knocks to his head in three of the team's four matches thus far, including one elbow from Vancouver's Atiba Harris that drew a one-game suspension for the Whitecaps' attacker. Nevertheless, Nowak said Valdes was still fit and that he would be fine for the Columbus game after the club's bye week.

Freddy Adu has also fully rejoined the team, after being given a few days off by Nowak after Olympic qualifying. Adu appeared in three matches over five days with the U.S. U-23 team and was held out of Saturday's draw with Vancouver but will be re-integrated when the club takes the field next.

The only real injury, Nowak said, was to rookie Krystian Witkowski, who suffered a concussion in training two weeks ago. Witkowski was signed by the Union in the offseason after being selected in the Supplemental Draft.


  1. I agree with him giving Adu time off after the Olympics. I think we’ve seen with the lack of production from Shea that these kids sometimes just need a break from playing.

    The game against the Crew is absolutely massive. They no longer have any excuses (Williams and Adu with U-23) and it’s time they show up for once.

  2. Nowak is a horrible coach. As an RBNY fan, I hope he gets a 5 year extension. As a soccer fan, I think he should be terminated. He is like Juan Carlos Osorio..constant tinkering. Never giving amy line-up a chance. Playing people out of posiion. The whole bit. he’s a travesty. It’s completely realistic that this Philly team will be as bad as the 2009 RBNY team.

  3. so many tools but so little seems to be being built with it. very frustrating:
    number (indicates role)

    —–9 Mwanga — 9 Pajoy —–
    10 Marfan —- 10 Torres ——10 Adu
    ———-6 Carroll———-
    3 Garfan– 5 Valdes– 4 Califf–2 Williams
    ———1 MacMath———–

    Play to the strength of your players:
    -midfield with three creative possession-happy, short passing midfielders,
    -two technical and strong target strikers.
    -an experienced and steady holding MF that can serve as an additional centerback,
    -mobile wingbacks who range forward while maintaining good tracking against fast counters

    sub when people get hurt, accumulate cards, hit a funk or you need an additional defensive MF.

    What is so hard about forming a consistent approach rather than reinventing the wheel every game?

  4. As a Union fan, I want to like Nowak, I really do, but most of the time he drives me crazy. He says he wants to develop all the young players he has, but he has Mwanga and McInerney sitting on the bench. And, from what I’ve seen, I’d take Gabe Farfan over Lopez any day at left back. Nowak got me angry for letting Jordan Harvey go, but I will never forgive him for letting Le Toux go. What did we get in return that was better than Le Toux? Please Peter, do something to restore my confidence in you.

  5. His lineup changes, shipping out a solid core, and bizarre tactical decisions are only 1/2 of the issue. The other half is his paranoid style and penchant for blaming everyone else for things that are ultimately his responsibility. When the Union was winning I could deal with (barely) his occasional outbursts about fans driving away Carlos Ruiz or sending away Jordan Harvey in the middle of the night. But now? Ugh.

  6. Nowak drives me nuts. I don’t mind trying to rotate players to keep guys fresh through the season, but Man…it’s like a whole different team every game.

    They’re mostly kids Peter…give them a chance to settle in a bit first.

  7. “The term ‘shuffling’ is an overhaul of the lineup from week-to-week, and that’s different than what we’re doing,” Nowak said.

    Dude, that’s exactly what you’re doing. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

    “Nowak stressed the need to give playing time to the young core of the Union, so that it can develop into a cohesive unit, and so that the team can know which young players are good enough to be on the field with the veterans.”

    Which is why Adu randomly doesn’t play sometimes and Danny Mwanga comes off the bench? And yeah, you shipped your only real veterans off to another team.


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