Nowak: From Doop to Poop

The genius of Nowak built Philadelphia, but his insanity tore it down and possibly paved the way for an unexpected All-Star savior
by Abram Chamberlain   |   Thursday, June 14, 2012

Peter Nowak former coach of the Philadelphia Union

It’s been a strange few days in the world of soccer management.

Toronto FC decided that Aron Winter winning the Canadian Championship was not enough to keep him around … well technically Winter resigned, but still. Across the pond, after being linked to the England National Team job for the better part of the season, Harry Redknapp is out at Tottenham. Then, in good old America, after Philadelphia gave Peter Nowak the keys to the car, and he proceeded to get really good mileage for two years before totaling it this year, was also let go.

While the firing of Nowak was not surprising, it still lead to a lot of head scratching. How did Nowak fall so far? Why did Philadelphia allow him to drastically alter a team? What is next for Philadelphia? And how does Eric Wynalda fit into all of this (more on that later)?

Peter Nowak used to be a premier MLS manager. When he was announced as the manager of the expansion Philadelphia Union people couldn’t wait to see what he’d be able to do with them. And while their first year played out like a typical expansion year goes for most teams, we could all see signs of what could be a very good team. Last year they looked like a team that could be a competitor. When Freddy Adu joined his old mentor after a good spell in Turkey and a better than expected showing for the USMNT in the Gold Cup, fans sat with baited breath awaiting Philadelphia ascension to a great MLS franchise.

Then Nowak lost his mind.

Faryd Mondragon, the Colombian goalkeeper who helped Philadelphia make the playoffs in their second year and its captain in 2011, and the Union decided to part ways. And so began the strange “restructuring” of Philadelphia. In one of the oddest falling outs that I’ve ever witnessed, French striker Sébastien Le Toux went to train with Bolton (despite not having played for a few months), came back to Philadelphia and was sold to the Vancouver Whitecaps for allocation money. Le Toux, by far the most popular player in the Union’s short history was unhappy, but we ignored it. After all, Nowak the virtuoso was piloting the ship.

But then, things fell apart.

Danny Califf was injured … wait, no he wasn’t. Danny Califf wanted to be back home in California … wait, no he didn’t. Then Califf was gone to Chivas USA. Danny Mwanga, another popular Union player and former number one draft pick, was traded to Portland. Suddenly all that was left in Philly were a bunch of pretty good to average role players, Freddy Adu and Nowak – and we all know what happens when Peter Nowak is left alone with Freddy Adu.

Now it is just Freddy. The father who knew best is gone. Philadelphia fans were not going to put up with starting the season with the second least points in the league and Union owners were not putting up with what seems the erosion of their franchise, despite allowing Nowak to get rid of Mwanga just a week earlier.

Nowak, who is now being replaced in his Philadelphia job on an interim basis by John Hackworth, his assistant, has now opened up all sorts of new rumors. Did Nowak really apply to a job in the Scottish Premier League during his wrecking ball last few months at Philadelphia? Could Hackworth do what Roberto Di Matteo did and win a trophy to keep his job (after all, the Union could still make MLS Cup and are one of five teams still remaining in the US Open Cup in spite of Nowak)? Will the Union go after Steve Nicol, who everyone linked to the TFC job? Could young progressive coach Caleb Porter – despite the U23 failures – be a good candidate for Philadelphia? Nowak the mastermind has left Philadelphia with more questions than answers, as most burnt out prodigies do.

But the insanity of Nowak does not end in Philadelphia. Nowak was originally scheduled to manage the MLS All-Stars. Regardless of how people feel about All-Star games, the idea of a new All-Star coach has sparked the imaginations of supporters everywhere.

While obvious names such as Jason Kreis and Ben Olsen have popped up, more creative names such as Vancouver’s Martin Rennie have been added to the list. But following the US Open Cup performance of amateur Cal FC there is another name leading fan voting on MLS’s website: Eric Wynalda.

Many fans, especially anti-All-Star fans, think Wynalda could be perfect. During his press interviews for Cal FC during their Open Cup run Wynalda said “when you have talented guys, there’s not a lot of coaching going on. I’m not doing a lot of coaching, guys.”

And that, ideally, is what the All-Star coach should do. Find guys, the best guys, play them together, let them have fun and hopefully win. Chelsea could slaughter the MLS All-Stars, as Seattle did to Cal FC, or the MLS All-Stars could surprise Chelsea, as Cal FC did to Portland. The inclusion of Eric Wynalda could provide something more interesting to the All-Star game than the actual game itself.

But, we all know there is probably no way Don Garber would allow Eric Wynalda, a huge voice against many of MLS’s policies, coach the All-Star game, but you’d think there’d be no way that Philadelphia would have let Peter Nowak build up their team for two years and destroy it in one.

The truth is that being Peter Nowak is unquantifiable. Perhaps he is the sane one and we are all nuts. Either way, things are different in Philadelphia and things could change in MLS.

Or everything could remain exactly the same.


Tuskegee Univ. Troy Univ.
Club Domestic:
NE Revolution
Club Foreign:
QPR & Villarreal
A Northeasterner trapped in the South who is living football in a part of the country controlled by American football. Looking for the irony, humor, and intricacies in the stories told through the beautiful game.