By Charles Boehm
With the team stuck near the bottom of the standings and the buzz from their 2010 entry into Major League Soccer fading, the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday announced the departure of Peter Nowak, the first and only head coach in the club’s history.
“Peter is a terrific coach and has incredible sideline instincts, one of the best that I have ever seen, but over a period of time, we determined we no longer were on the same page between ownership and Peter’s philosophy of managing the team,” Union CEO and managing director Nick Sakiewicz told reporters at a hastily-arranged press conference at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
“I made the decision in consultation with our investors that it was time to make a change. These are never easy things to do. Peter’s a friend. In the best interests of our club, I made that decision and we parted ways this morning.”
A star for Poland and several clubs in the German Bundesliga before ending his highly successful playing career with the Chicago Fire, Nowak began his coaching career with D.C. United, whom he led to the 2004 MLS Cup championship before departing for an assistant’s position with the U.S. Men’s National Team two years later.
He moved on to Philadelphia to build the MLS expansion team from the ground up, and seemed to have the passionately-supported club on track for championship contention when he guided them to a playoff berth in their second season a year ago. But in recent months he traded away several important veterans in favor of a more youthful squad, and the Union have suffered as a result, stumbling to a 2-7-2 record in 2012.
Last week he was reported to have applied for the managerial vacancy at Scottish club Hearts, a development he strongly denied, but which seems to have played a role in Philadelphia’s decision to make a change.
“No employer or manager likes to read that his…most important asset is out looking for a job,” Sakiewicz said on Wednesday, according to Union fan blog brotherlygame.com.