Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nowak celebrates an historic day for the Union

Here's what Union manager Peter Nowak had to say after today's 1-1 draw with Toronto FC that clinched the Union's first ever playoff berth.

Nowak celebrates an historic day for the Union

Gallery: Union 1, Toronto FC 1

Here's what Union manager Peter Nowak had to say after today's 1-1 draw with Toronto FC that clinched the Union's first ever playoff berth.

There are also photos from the game above, and video interviews with Justin Mapp and Carlos Valdés below.

On whether it would have been better to clinch a playoff berth with a win instead of a tie:

I tried to inspire them, because I believe that it was a great day for this group. I know that it’s not easy working with me sometimes, but the hard work and everything they put on the line has paid off. It’s a great day for a franchise as young as ours, and for this group as well.

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I think that in some capacity, you could feel the nervousness on the field, in some certain moments. They weren’t sure if they were going to be in the playoffs or not, because a lot of scenarios can form.

I think they were a little bit scared to win the game today, and you can see the difference between two teams when one team has two weeks off. They were more fresh than us, and they moved the ball pretty well.

They didn’t get dangerous except for the goal, but they looked better. You can see that if you don’t bring your "A" game, and if you move the ball too slow - they are organized, and a good group.

So it’s a good wake-up call before the playoffs, that you always have to bring the right mentality and approach to the game. I think that was a little bit off today, but as I said, the group is still a little bit young and inexperienced. Sometimes you’ve got to accept that.

But as I said, I’m sick and tired of those long faces. Even though we tied the game we’re in the playoffs, and this is more important than anything after a long seven months. The rest, we’ll see what happens next.

On Faryd Mondragón’s performance in his first game back from injury:

I think he needed this game. It’s not easy switching gears, to say let’s play Zac and then play Faryd in the playoffs. I think he needed this game to be familiar with the back line, to be back with them, feeling them, and I think it was a good game for him. He didn’t have much work except for the shot that went through, but it was good that he was on the field.

Even though Zac did a great job in the past seven weeks, I think it was important to bring Faryd back.

On where reaching the playoffs with this Union squad ranks among his career accomplishments:

They have a hard time with me, I can tell you that. They know that. Today, after the struggles at running, lifting, or anything else you do as a player, you just move it aside and say that was worth it.

It’s not only for me, but as a coaching staff, you look always as a coaching staff to improve, to make it better. I think the team believed that the work we put together, the whole tactical part - sometimes it was too much information for them. But they absorbed that information very well, they started reading the game the right way.

For me to see the evolving of the team from being an expansion team to a team that is still in first place, that’s something we’re all proud about. It’s not only me, because you can draw different scenarios - you can put on the board a thousand scenarios.

But they need to know what to do on the field, and right now I think they’re starting to get it. They are still young, they still need time, but we have enough veterans and guys who understand the grit that they are going to get better. Maybe not during the whole stretch of the playoffs, but at some point they are going to be much better, and we will try to keep the team as it is.

On Danny Mwanga’s health:

I’ve told you many times - I know the fans are screaming and yelling his name, but you’ve got to put guys in a position where they can succeed. You don’t want to have a guy come in and we feel he’s ready or he should play, or the fans demand that he play - it’s about the feeling of what goes on during the week.

We saw that he’s coming back, but the recovery is not as fast as we all wish. When you talk to him after games like today’s, or even before, that’s normal. You have to accept it as it is, and make progress physically. Doing the extra stuff that is going to help him to be him.

It’s not only the physical part, it’s also the mental part, that I am good to go - that I am 100 percent, that I can do this, that I can do that. I think it’s more about the mental part, being confident, then being good. I think from that point of view, we need to improve the situation, to look at him and make him better.

On clinching a playoff game at home:

I wish we could get it in a better fashion. We all wish to have won the game. But some days, you have to accept what it is. We had the same situation at Chivas USA. We knew that it was a tough game for us from a physical standpoint. It’s good for us to be ready for the next couple of weeks, because that’s going to be a sign of whether we are a good team or just happy to be in the playoffs.

My message before the game, when we talked on Friday, was that you cannot just be happy with what you have. I think it’s more important what is beyond that. For this group, it’s sometimes not that fast. We need to improve that, to start saying why not. The "why not" situation is going to give us another step forward as a team.

But I think that for a second-year franchise, it’s not a bad situation at all.

On the last regular-season match against New York, and the stakes involved:

The loss of [Thierry] Henry, we don’t know if it’s a good situation or not, because we know that [Juan] Agudelo will play. I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing. We’ll see, with a couple of games today, how [the standings] will be, but all we know is that we want to keep the top seed in the East. And we’ll see what happens on Wednesday as well for New York.

Regardless of what happens, we’re still getting points, and that’s a good thing.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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