Philadelphia’s manager discussed his keeper and all things Union on Tuesday.
"We need to stop with this nonsense with the second goal against D.C. United," said Philadelphia Union manager Nowak in a wide-ranging conversation with the media today. "It was clarified by league officials, by U.S. Soccer, that the goal was supposed to be disallowed and Jaime Moreno was supposed to get a yellow card. That’s done and it's over."
Nowak is referring of course to the incident in the April 10 match between the Union and United, in which Moreno interfered with a Chris Seitz kick and scored a goal of his own. Though the league later said the goal should not have counted, the episode began chatter among fans and media about the quality of Seitz's play.
That chatter got louder after last Thursday's game in Toronto, when Seitz could not control a rebound off a scorching Dwayne De Rosario free kick, letting in a goal. Seitz later brought down O'Brian White to concede the game-winning penalty kick.
But if Nowak has any doubts about Seitz, it doesn't show. There is no discussion about replacing the young keeper, or even naming a backup.
"This is not American football where you have three, four quarterbacks and you change them. The confidence in the goalkeeper must be there," asserted the former U.S. national team assistant. "You cannot just rotate it because one game is bad, two games are bad. Who is number one, who is number two? That’s American football. Soccer is not American football.”
The manager is quick to point out that the team needs to play better as a whole to take the pressure off Seitz.
"We put Chris in this spot. We—as a group—all together. And that needs to change. The mistakes we made as a group need to change."
Despite the miscues, Nowak is pleased with the progress the team has made during the year. Though they've been a man down for more than half of two games, the Union have not seen a lack of effort or any lapse in their attempts to create scoring chances.
Nowak would clearly rather not routinely have a defender ejected, but he is proud of how his team has played in those situations.
"I would rather play the way we played with 10 men than Toronto [did] with 11."
Assuming the Union can keep all 11 men on the pitch, who might those 11 be as the season progresses?
The Union have been notoriously circumspect in regards to starting lineups and playing time, but Nowak hinted strongly that the team's younger players would begin to see more action.
"They’re going to get minutes sooner or later," Nowak confirmed. "The season is long and we need to get the group ready. Our philosophy is that any given day you can be called upon and you have to be there for the team. I have only 11 spots. I wish I could play them all. We want to have players that regardless of if they play one minute, 30 seconds, 90 minutes, they're going to be ready."
The Union's next game is Saturday in Harrison, New Jersey, against the New York Red Bulls. MLS' worst team last season has a new coach, a new stadium, and a new level of play—they currently sit atop the Eastern Conference with nine points in four games.
Nowak is impressed with the Red Bulls' start, but confident his team can give them a game.
"Nine points is nine points. But any given day in this league anybody can beat anybody," Nowak said. "The strikers are very dangerous with [Juan Pablo] Angel up top. The midfield is pretty solid as well. We’ll make a couple of adjustments but we’re still going to play our game."
While Union fans and players are gearing up for the match, the captain cannot. Danny Califf is suspended from the contest as a result of his red card against Toronto.
How will it feel for Califf to take in the game as a spectator and not as a player?
"It's gonna suck," said the captain, characteristically straightforward. "It’s gonna be hard to watch the team walk out of the tunnel and not be able to be a part of it."
For more from Goal.com contributor Ramin Majd, follow him at twitter.com/rmajd