The date was June 12, 2012. I was watching a surprisingly entertaining game between Denmark and Portugal during the group stage of the European Championship when I casually picked up my phone and learned that Peter Nowak had been fired. The decision was not particularly surprising to me. The team was on their way to an eighth place finish that season, which was a disappointment after an impressive third place finish in the club's 2011 season. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Fast forward to January 5, 2015. I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across Jonathan Tannenwald's epic release of court documents that reveals instances of hazing, player endangerment, and a complete disregard for the severity of concussions. Upon reading these documents I was initially shocked at the bizarre nature of the entire spanking incident - the thought of Peter Nowak spanking a professional athlete and allegedly having John Hackworth video the entire thing is unnerving to say the least.
What is even more worrisome is that Nowak was only fired after the MLS stepped in and basically ordered the Union to get rid of him before the MLS Players Union went on strike. His assertion that concussions simply do not exist and refusal to allow players to drink water during a 10 mile run in 80 degree weather gives you a pretty clear idea of the kind of coach Nowak is. A coach who should never be allowed anywhere near a professional team in the 21st century. His behavior was inexcusable and MLS was smart to intervene when they did. These were dark times for the fledgling franchise.
At the beginning of the Nowak reign of terror the team lacked a training facility, practice fields, a Sporting Director, and a stadium. These are all pretty basic necessities for any professional soccer club that wants to be successful, the Union were behind the eight ball from the beginning and have been struggling to claw their way to relevance ever since. The Nowak-Hackworth-Sakiewicz triumvirate was a failure, but these guys have all been cleaned out and a new chapter for the Union will begin.
Lets look at the positives. The Union have built a stadium that they can call home, laid down some practice fields, founded YSC Academy, reincarnated Bethlehem Steel FC and are beginning construction on a training facility. Not to mention the fact that we have a Sporting Director in Earnie Stewart who has not only built successful teams at AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch league, but he did it on a tight budget. The former United States Men's National Team player looks like just the man to build something that Philadelphia can be proud of. The early days of this franchise were rough, but the Union just might be starting to grow up and become the club that us fans have always known it could be.