On Tuesday, MLS' injury report revealed Torres sprained his left MCL. On Wednesday, Nowak told reporters he expects to be without his crafty midfielder for 8 to 10 weeks, indicating the sprain is much more serious than originally thought. Which makes one ponder whether this was just a freak occurrence or whether the fear of injuries such as this one is perhaps an underlying reason why the young, diminutive Torres has been mostly a second-half super sub in his MLS career.
Also on Wednesday, executives from the Union, MLS and AT&T confirmed Chelsea will be the opponent for the MLS All-Stars on July 25 at PPL Park. Also confirmed was that Nowak will manage MLS' best for the second time. Nowak and the All-Stars (which sounds like the perfect name for an orchestra) celebrated a 1-0 win over Chelsea in 2006.
On Thursday, the Union announced it will host German Supercup champions Schalke 04 on Wednesday, May 9, at PPL Park. The news came as an "oh, by the way" of sorts, as much of the attention still surrounded the Union, PPL Park, Chelsea, and the delicious turkey-and-bacon sandwiches served on fresh ciabatta bread at Wednesday's news conference.
Meanwhile, Nowak said Califf should be "good to go" Saturday against Columbus, but you have to wonder how close to 100 percent he really is. About 3 weeks ago, I had a lengthy phone conversation with the Union defender about the state of the club, during which time, we briefly discussed his health. Califf told me that he felt fine and that there was no slowing from an offseason surgery in which he had Synvisc joint fluid injected into his left knee.
Califf is one of the few guys on the team who won't provide a clichéd, cookie-cutter response to media questions. He generally says what's up, which, in turns, commands respect. So when he told me he was fine, I believed it.
But Califf is not fine.
On Tuesday, the injury report showed Califf recently picked up a hamstring strain in the same leg as his knee procedure. Albeit minor, it makes me wonder . . .
Has El Capitan overworked one body part to compensate for another? If you're feeling the effects of one injury, you move differently to ease the stress (and even pain). Over time, this can put pressure elsewhere, possibly leading to further injury.
Plain and simple, Califf on a soccer pitch has been a beast. He's laid out opponents the way a defensive back obliterates a wide receiver coming across the middle. He's tenacious, has a good soccer IQ, and is full of pride. We saw as much in the hoopla surrounding his benching against Colorado, the day after his 32nd birthday.
So I get it. To be benched in the home opener on your birthday weekend as the captain hurts one's pride.
But ask yourself, isn't a momentary loss of pride worth less than the acknowledgment that this injury is potentially damaging to a career?
Odds and endlines
Peter Nowak will coach against friend and fellow countryman Robert Warzycha on Saturday when the Union hosts Columbus. Both men spent time on the Polish national team from 1990-93, but for Warzycha, this one is all business: "I'm not coaching against Peter Nowak," Warzycha told the Crew's website. "A friend of mine coaches [Philadelphia's] team. And as somebody said, 'You better win against your friends.' So that's what I'm tying to do." . . . Chester will be home to the world's first "smart soccer" match, as adidas will unveil its miCoach professional soccer team tracking system at the July 25 MLS All-Star Game. Providing coaches with real-time measurements on player performance, the miCoach system uses GPS technology to track position, speed, power output, intensity of play, acceleration and the amount of distance covered. Earlier this year, adidas introduced its "smart cleat," which provides players with similar information on their own performance . . . On Monday, Union homegrown players Jimmy McLaughlin and Zach Pfeffer will be at the new FC Delco youth clinic at Athlete's Advantage (Tee's Field) in Conshohocken (725 Conshohocken Road). The two FC Delco alums will meet with players and assist a training session with players ages 6-8. The camp began on March 26 and runs Mondays through May 7. For more info, contact Kim Coyle (484-620-1382).
SHOTS ON GOAL
Columbus (2-2-0, 6 points) at Union (0-3-1, 1 point)
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Where: PPL Park, Chester TV: NBC Sports Network
On the web: Streaming online at MLSSoccer.com
For kicks: There will be very few times when the soccer gods smile on the Union this season, and this may be one of them. Following what has been a 2-week break from action, the Union reconvenes the MLS season at home against the Crew, which travels to PPL Park, looking to avenge a 1-0 loss last season and hoping to bounce back from a 4-1 loss at home to Red Bull New York last week . . . Columbus is tied for third in the East, but like the Union, it also faces scoring woes. Columbus has scored only four goals and allowed six in four games, with wins over lowly Toronto and expansion Montreal . . . The player to watch is midfielder Milovan Mirosevic. Acquired in the offseason, Mirosevic is a crafty No. 10 who distributes well and can score. His production is slow this year, but he is a player who can break through at any time. Think Chicago's Sebastian Grazzini in comparing Mirosevic . . . Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenenbaum is solid, but not a wall by any means. He replaces top keeper William Hesmer, out with a right ankle sprain. Gruenenbaum boasts shutouts in the Crew's pair of wins, but has a 1.50 goals against average, allowing six goals on 20 shots.
INJURY REPORT (as of Tuesday)
Out for the Union: Krystian Witkowski, FW (concussion); Roger Torres, MF (left knee MCL sprain); Probable: Danny Califf, D (left hamstring strain).
Out for Columbus: Ben Speas, FW (sports hernia rehab); Rich Balchan, D (sports hernia rehab); Tommy Heinemann, FW (left knee internal injury); Julius James, D (illness); Doubtful: William Hesmer, GK (right ankle sprain); Questionable: Carlos Mendes, D (right hamstring strain); Danny O'Rourke, MF (left ankle sprain)
Contact Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprtswtr.