Union hope to keep momentum in friendlies
CHESTER, Pa. -- The Union are having a fantastic season. If you don’t count the MLS part, that is.
Despite a 2-7-2 league record, the third-year club is cruising through tournament and friendly play. Their latest triumph came on Tuesday, as they took down DC United in US Open Cup action. Prior to that, the Union put together a strong win over the Rochester Rhinos en route to the Open Cup quarterfinals and even took down Bundesliga team, FC Schalke 04, just for good measure.
So when coach Peter Nowak’s group sets to face Reading United at Shirk Stadium on Saturday and the Harrisburg City Islanders at Hersheypark Stadium on Tuesday in a pair of seasonal goodwill friendlies, he hopes to keep the Union’s success streak alive and maybe even convert some of that winning flavor to their regular season.
“Whenever you can show up and put everything on the field, you’ll get a good result,” said Nowak. “The small games will be displayed the same as the big games. It’s a process and we want to play every game the same whether its home or away, different divisional teams. That’s the challenge right now.”
You play how you practice, they say. And though the upcoming friendlies aren’t practice, they are close. The Union hope that if they convert in the small games, it will translate to the bigger ones. That strategy makes these two upcoming friendlies a little more than just reserve-team practice.
“Success breeds success,” said Nowak. “I was extremely disappointed after the Toronto game [1-0 loss] because we were making progress and playing a good game up until then. In Toronto, we were static and passive and the game wasn’t how we play. Right now is a good opportunity to step in the right direction and make it good again. We have to remind ourselves and put on our self discipline that whoever we play and wherever we play that it’s a good game for 90 minutes. We can’t go take three steps forward and two steps back because it will be a challenge to establish the rhythm. We have to continue to work, compete and make sure everyone is on the same page.”
The week of exhibition will also benefit the recovery of midfielder Roger Torres, who has been out of the Union lineup since April 9 with an MCL sprain. Torres is feeling good and expected to earn some time on the field.
“He’s good to go and he will play,” said Nowak of Torres. “He worked very hard this past week. These guys pulled together after the Toronto FC loss and Roger was part of this group. Right now he’s working to come back and he’s not feeling any pain. He’s striking the ball very well and is very accurate. We have to continue to monitor his workload so we don’t overwhelm him.”
However, the Union aren’t preparing for war, they still have to focus on the usage of players and keep an eye on their June 16 date with DC United in MLS play. This creates an interesting balancing act between competitive play and self preservation -- something the team is taking very seriously.
“It’s important to understand the most important game is over the weekend against DC United,” said Nowak. “We have to make sure the guys still do the job over the weekend. They are fresh, they are mentally fresh. We treat the friendlies with respect but we still need to focus on performing well against DC, because that’s what is important.”E-mail Ryan Bright at email@example.com