Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak eager for U.S. Open Cup rematch vs. D.C. United

Posted: June 05, 2012

IF YOU DON’T take this tournament seriously, you will lose. 

Union manager Peter Nowak implied as much as his team prepares for a fourth-round match in the U.S. Open Cup against D.C. United on Tuesday.

The tournament is a single-elimination, winner-take-all challenge among six varying divisions of soccer leagues in the United States — a tournament in which David has beaten Goliath several times so far. All 16 MLS clubs entered in the third round and seven lost to opponents from lower divisions. One of nine remaining was the Union, a 3-0 winner over Rochester. That set the stage for the match against host United. With a win, Union would host the winner of minor league affiliate Harrisburg City vs. Red Bull New York in quarterfinal play on June 26 (7:30 p.m.) at PPL Park.

"You saw what happened to the other MLS teams that treat these games lightly against lower-ranking opponents. What are they doing now? They’re eliminated," Nowak said Monday. "You have to treat these games with respect, and we are telling these guys that it’s important to show up and put everything you got on the plate. If you do, you will win."

The Union will face United at the scene of last year’s U.S. Cup heartbreak. The teams battled to a shootout at the Maryland SoccerPlex, but a 10-man Union lost, 4-2, on penalty kicks after Carlos Valdes was sent off with a straight red card. That incited Nowak, who was ejected moments later.

By all accounts, United will be without its brazen forward, Chris Pontius, who is nursing a glute strain. In addition, Dwayne DeRosario, MLS’ player of the month for May, is away on FIFA World Cup qualifying duties with the Canadian national team. DeRosario played 90 minutes in the Canadians’ scoreless draw against the United States in Toronto on Sunday.

This makes the outlook positive — but doesn’t necessarily make this match any easier.

"I thought it was a good game the last time [the Union and United played in the Open Cup]," Nowak said. "Even with 10 guys, we tied the game, and we had a couple of great chances. I think we are excited to have a chance to host the next game at home, and these guys are using this game as motivation to get there."

The main thing Nowak hopes to see is more consistency. He pointed to how well the team played in a 3-2 loss to New York and in a hard-fought, 2-1 exhibition win against Schalke 04, then later had a dismal, flat-footed performance that amounted to a 1-0 loss against winless Toronto FC in the Union’s most recent MLS match.

"I believe success breeds success, and that’s why I was extremely disappointed in the Toronto game," Nowak said. "How we go from the New York game where we put the pressure on them and was a lot of runs off the ball to Toronto where we were static, and slow off the ball ... It can’t be a good game vs. Rochester and then another step back [Tuesday against United]. We have to make sure we play a good game from the first minute to the 90th minute." 

Odds and endlines

Peter Nowak said that he hasn’t gotten the results back from the concussion testing, but thinks Zac MacMath could be cleared for this match ... Also, it’s unlikely Sheanon Williams (sprained big right toe) will suit up. Fellow defender Raymon Gaddis is still recovering from the flu. Nowak says he will decide on Gaddis before the team’s midmorning departure Tuesday ... Freddy Adu will hold off on elective Lasik eye surgery at least until after Tuesday’s match. Nowak said doctors are evaluating the 22-year-old midfielder but his surgery "won’t happen right now" ... Josue Martinez continues to work his way into the starting 11, as Nowak said the 21-year-old Costa Rican is a lot more comfortable. He attributes that to Martinez’ family getting settled in. "How he feels off the field is just as important as on the field," Nowak said. "He’s a new guy we needed to give some room to settle in. I think he’s feeling more comfortable now and we are looking to establish his role with the team."  

Contact Kerith Gabriel at gabrielk@phillynews.com.


AGENDA

What: U.S. Open Cup fourth-round match

Who: Union vs. D.C. United

When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, Md.

Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 at the gate. Log onto www.philadelphiaunion.com, use promotional code UNION to get a discounted rate.

INJURY REPORT (as of Friday)

Out for the Union: Krystian Witkowski, FW (concussion symptoms); Zac MacMath, GK (concussion symptoms)

Doubtful: Sheanon Williams, D (right big toe sprain); Chase Harrison, GK (left ankle sprain)

Questionable: Roger Torres, MF (left knee surgery recovery); Raymon Gaddis, D (illness); MF Keon Daniel (left ankle sprain)

Probable: Chris Albright, D (left big toe sprain); Cristhian Hernandez, MF (left ankle sprain)

Out for DC United: Lance Rozeboom, MF (left knee ACL tear); Danny Cruz, MF (right hamstring strain)

Doubtful: FW Chris Pontius (gluteus minimus strain) 

— Kerith Gabriel

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