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Remember all that promising, original Philly Union talent?

Jun 6, 2012, 7:05 PM EDT

Colorado Rapids v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

So many of us were impressed with Philadelphia back in 2010. Not so much with the quality of the product; Peter Nowak’s first version finished 8-15-7, next to last in the East.  It was plenty respectable for an expansion outfit, but nobody was hollering “Bring on Barca!”

It wasn’t the performance per se, but the promise of better ahead. Right from first kick, Nowak took a long-term approach, building mainly around two kinds of players: “young” and “absurdly young.”

Danny Mwanga, of course, was among the unripe, lot-to-learn set. He was just 18 when the Union made him its top overall pick in the 2010 draft. Mwanga, goalkeeper Chris Seitz, center back Michael Orozco, attacker Roger Torres (pictured) and others were on the south side of 23 – some of them very “south,” like Jack McInerney, who was just 17 then.

It really was a talented, youthful bunch, augmented by a few highly experienced older hands (who, all things considered, often looked like place holders until Nowak could court more young talent to mold.)

Check out the lineup (and subs) from Philadelphia’s debut MLS match in 2010 (a 2-0 loss at Seattle and then-named Qwest Field):

Chris Seitz, Jordan Harvey, Danny Califf, Michael Orozco, Toni Stahl, David Myrie (Jack McInerney 78),Andrew Jacobson, Danny Mwanga (Stefani Miglioranzi 46), Roger Torres (Amobi Okugo 71), Sebastien Le Toux, Alejandro Moreno.

Of the 14 names you see, only three now remain on the job at PPL Park.  Torres, now 20 years old, is most prominent, although he’s been injured since April.

Okugo, a member of the U.S. under-23 side earlier this year, remains a Union man, although one rarely deployed in 2012. Same for McInerney; those two have combined for just one start this year and only 253 total minutes.

Everyone else – gone like last week’s fish special.

As Richard Farley told you earlier, today’s trade that sent Mwanga to Portland surely needed to happen. Something needed to happen; the Oregon State man was stuck, and expensively so. You couldn’t even say he had plateaued; more accurate to say he was going the wrong direction.

So the bigger question here is this: Is Nowak the right man to nurture young talent?

He has an MLS Cup title (in 2004 with D.C. United), so he can clearly coach. But, again, can he tutor and teach and bring young men along?

Because clubs that grab up a bushel of young players is great and all – so long teams have the tools to bring them along. Otherwise, what’s the point?

  1. richiethek - Jun 6, 2012 at 9:25 PM

    The simple answer is “no”. Not to mention the fact Nowak won’t stop tinkering long enough to let the players develop any chemistry. As a “Founding Member” (season ticket holder) of the U, this season has been more than a disappointment. For an organization that prides itself on communication with its fan base, the team’s failure to provide reasonable explanations for many of this season’s moves (e.g., Le Toux, Califf, Mwanga), suggests that the team’s purported openness, was nothing but lip service. Since the season is a loss anyway, they might as well make the one move that is really warranted at this point – removing Nowak. We’ve really got nothing to lose by letting Hackworth manage for the remainder of the season and see if he can produce better results. If that doesn’t work, then they should be prepared to announce the hiring of a new manager shortly after the season ends, particularly someone with a track record of maximizing young talent. If they fail to make these (actually necessary) moves, I suspect that I won’t be the only season ticket holder finding a better use for these dollars next year. Flyers tickets sound like a good idea…

    • Steve Davis - Jun 7, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      Great thoughts. Thanks for speaking up. You’re clearly passionate about the club.

  2. bentley27 - Jun 6, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    If you’re on the same wavelength as most of the fans then they better make some kind of Change or they’re in trouble.

  3. whordy - Jun 7, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    Good post. The answer is no. Between inconsistent lineups, inconsistent tactics, playing favorites, and bringing in bad verterans Nowak really ruined thecore of this team. We can go all the way back to the end of 2010, when Le toux and Mwanga had developed intoa good partnership and we were ALL excited to see them the next season. What does Nowak do? Sign an aged Carlos Ruiz, who didn’t fit with this team in terms of tactics or playing style of personality, and that totally ruined Mwangas development.

  4. danielc339 - Jun 7, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    Great article, Steve. We’ve been partial STH since the inaugural season and after last year everything seemed so promising. A couple of patches here and there and we’d be ready to contend again, and continue to improve. And then the implosion came. And looking back on it now, it’s all Nowak’s doing. I don’t know what it is with him, if it’s an unchecked ego that can’t stand players being more loved than him or just an overall confidence issue but this schizophrenic movement of players and constant tinkering with the starting lineup has left a seemingly bewildered team, and a deflated fan base. I don’t have faith in Nowak anymore, and I feel like he has no idea what he’s doing right now. We still have a lot of young talent with a lot of upside, but they need to start playing if we’re going to get them MLS seasoned. Better to start now during this disaster of a season than wait another year or two and hope it gets better. They need some on the job training, and now is the time for it.

  5. budangelo7 - Jun 7, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    Nice article and right to the point. As a founding member, a SOB, and a top 100 fan last year as recognized by the Union, I would say my answer is leaning toward NO. Danny is typical of the raw talent on the club, a player with potential. He was shown how to be a pro and what to expect as can readily be seen by his parting remarks. He was a true gentleman loved by the fans and SOBs. But the Chivas goal is not his regular game. His lack of skills and lack of growth shows, in my opinion, that the current Union staff can’t develop new talent but can only place talent into a system, which shows why some of the staff had success before. Danny doesn’t head the ball well, and can be seen having difficulty judging where the ball is. His first touch is horrible because he tenses up prior to getting the ball and the ball lands to far from his feet. Both easy to fix and never done! He was more relaxed and productive with LeToux but lately had seemed confused and tentative. He does not like contact and was easily put off his game. All of these things could have and should have been fixed. This means to me either Dan can’t be taught and should have been delt with before, or the current staff can’t develop players. You can add a coach for skills without changing much, but I feel they won’t because they don’t recognize their mistakes and blae the players.

  6. tackledummy1505 - Jun 7, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    Nowak won in 2004*- Although this statement is true, the statement is outdated. The MLS was different back then, then it is now. The MLS has grown and has great talent now. D.C. United is a great example of having the right talent and depth ratio right now. D.C. also has their star in Rosario. The Union on the other hand have either turned in all of their chips in for a money making ponzi scheme, are looking to buy a huge name this summer (Raul, Ronaldinho, Drogba), or this club is in a financial struggle. Either of these answers don’t look good to me.

    Take the ponzi money making scheme, while Philly fans are loyal and we love our sports, teams that are in this scheme tend to fail really bad to the point of non-existing. Take the Eagles of the early 90’s with Norman Braman when talks were going around about an owner coming in and buying this team and moving them. Then the latest rumor and thought was of the Sixers. The Sixers have lost a lot of fans in Philly and if not for the particular owners that came in and bought the Sixers, I feel that they had a serious chance of leaving. Fans here don’t like to be toyed with or let known that let’s just make money scheme works with us.

    Then there’s the big name player that we may buy. Problem I see with this is that whoever you try to court is going to know we have no shot at doing anything this season. Not to mention that players around the league know now the trouble you must go through with Nowak, because of players like Le Toux and Danny Califf. Finally there’s the problem that whoever they try to go after will have to play with no name teammates, young guys, and hot head Freddy Adu (who thinks he’s the greatest player ever). So anyone that the Union try to court is going to have to spend a lot more than they should just to get his services. That’s if they even consider the offer.

    Then there’s the worst of the worst, the ever bad business. Having a bunch of owners come in, start something, not know how to financially do the job right, and kill any chance of having a pro soccer team stay here or come back here. I know the owners have to be making money. Every game is pretty much sold out, ton’s of merchandise is sold every game, and families come to the games solely to eat. At least the family that sits in front of me eats about $130 a game. With that being said, there has to be money coming in, but to be on the short end of the stick of not making money must mean financial mismanagement.

    Like I said, “Anyway you look at all of these outcomes, nothing looks good.” To answer this post correctly, Nowak is a bad coach and no I don’t think he can tutor young players. His main problem is his own ego and his inability of managing players. You can’t be a coach and have favorites or make your own click. Yes you can have favorite players, but you play the players that are going to give you the best chance to win. Not play the players that you get along with best. Nowak has had a select group of players that he’s gotten a long with and a lot of other players he has not. He’s been inconsistent with his rosters, mainly because he’s looking for players to play a long with his own little click.

    As far as the Union future go, it may get even darker before the season is out. Not only has ownership failed to put a quality team out on the field, but it has an image problem with Nowak and has put a lot of space between it’s fans. Fans aren’t upset that strictly upset with just the trades, but the lies and deceit that has gone on with these trades. Fans are losing faith and trust with this team and for a sport that has no grass roots here will have an even harder time surviving a Philly outraged than what the Sixers endured.

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