IT WASN'T the exit anyone envisioned Peter Nowak having when he signed on to manage the Union 3 years ago.

The announcement that Nowak was to become the club's first coach was met with excitement and optimism from supporters — as if should have been. Nowak's resumé spoke for itself: legend as a captain of Poland, who came to MLS after an illustrious career in Europe, leading Chicago as a player to an MLS Cup crown in 1999 and D.C. United to an MLS title as a coach in 2004.

But it was more recent circumstances that preceded his downfall as CEO and managing partner Nick Sakiewicz took the podium Wednesday to announce that Nowak would be "stepping down from his responsibilities as team manager," and that assistant John Hackworth is now the new interim boss.

A report in the Scottish press that surfaced late Saturday night said Nowak applied for the vacant managerial position with Scottish Premier League club Heart of Midlothian. With the Union faltering at 2-7-2 overall and on break from MLS play, the job search appeared to be the final straw.

Even if Sakiewicz failed to publicly acknowledge it.

"Not good timing," Sakiewicz told a media throng at PPL Park Wednesday. "No employer, no manager likes to read that his most important guy or most important asset is out looking for employment, but it was a rumor, and I don't react to rumors. I believe 80 percent of what I hear and 100 percent of what see ... If you are asking me if that was the reason for this change, absolutely not."

Instead, Sakiewicz cited "philosophical differences" between the two. Attempts to reach Nowak, 47, for comment were unsuccessful.

"There were just philosophical differences and just not the way myself and [fellow co-owner] Jay Sugarman envisioned the direction of this club," Sakiewicz said. "We thank Peter for everything. This has been an immeasurable learning experience. We are in a tough spot right now, but we have momentum."

Pointing to the Union emblem on his sport coat, he said: "This badge will always come first. We owe it to our fans, our sponsors, our partners, you guys in the media to put together the best team possible that will make us successful, and I honestly didn't like the direction we were going."

In Hackworth, 42, the club has a fresh start as the second phase of a 34-game MLS campaign begins. Hackworth preached that little will change, that developing young talent will always be paramount, and that he plans to do so his way.

"I am not going to change too much stylistically from what Peter believed in. Will we do some things different? For sure, but we always wanted to play attacking soccer, we always wanted to be a team that presses high up the field and gets numbers forward, play with a grit and a style that's unique.

"The one thing I love about this city and this club is how tough everybody is, and we as coaches and as players want to make sure we go out there every day and make sure we compete to the highest of our abilities, and I think you will see that from us going forward.

Hackworth also mentioned his plans "to be active" in the international summer transfer window that begins the end of this month, but his focus also is trying to get the maximum out of the players in his locker room, who are 3-1 during the respite from MLS play and reached the quarterfinals of the prestigious U.S. Open Cup.

Hackworth's road to restoring some faith in this franchise kicks off Saturday at 7:30 p.m., when the Union resumes MLS play against D.C. United at PPL Park.

"If it wasn't for Peter Nowak, I wouldn't be here, and I appreciate him a great deal for that," Hackworth said. "But let's get one thing straight here: I am not Peter Nowak, I am John Hackworth."


Contact Kerith Gabriel at gabrielk@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprtswtr.