Whether it be on the pitch or on the sideline, Peter Nowak has a penchant for turning soccer teams into powerhouses.

Kevin Payne knew it when he hired the Polish soccer legend to coach Major League Soccer's D.C. United in 2004 and watched Nowak lead D.C. to an MLS Cup title in the same season.

U.S. National Team coach Bob Bradley knew it when he appointed Nowak as his assistant in 2006 and to spearhead the Under-23 contingent that had an impressive showing in qualifying for last summer's Olympic Games in Beijing. Overall, with Nowak in the mix, the national team went 24-8-4.

Now, it appears Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz knew it all along. Today, members of the franchise will officially announce Nowak as the team's first coach.

The proceedings will take place at 3 o'clock at The Wharf along Chester's riverfront, next to the site where the team's new stadium will stand when the Union begins play in the MLS next spring.

"From the beginning, he was the guy we wanted; he was our primary target," Sakiewicz said. "Out of all the candidates, his style of coaching just appealed to the tough, no-nonsense approach of our fans and what this city embodies."

First reported by the Daily News yesterday on Philly.com, Nowak (pronounced No-vak) comes to the team after 3 years on the national team level, a position from which he has resigned, U.S. Soccer announced yesterday.

A native of Poland, Nowak, 44, has made a name for himself on both domestic and international soil as a player and coach. In a 23-year tenure as a midfielder, Nowak captained the Polish National Team for 3 years, making 24 international appearances, and was named Polish Player of the Year in 1996. On the club level, Nowak had stints in Turkey and Switzerland, but was remembered for his time with German Bundesliga giants FC Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich.

In the States, Nowak made the MLS' expansion Chicago Fire into winners as the team's center midfielder in their inaugural season, leading the Fire to both MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup titles in 1998.

"We wanted a winner and Peter is just that," Sakiewicz said. "Everywhere he goes, he wins, and that is really important to us as an ownership group as we won't be satisfied until we are lifting that [MLS] Cup."

Nowak could not be reached for comment, but will be in attendance at today's news conference.

Sakiewicz said Nowak was signed to a "long-term deal." It is believed that Nowak will be among the top five highest-paid coaches in the league.

While Nowak was the Union's No. 1 choice, Sakiewicz said 10 other candidates were under consideration, the majority being domestic. With Nowak, it appears the Union has the best of both worlds.

"Peter plays an attractive style of soccer we know will be appealing to our fan base," Sakiewicz said. "He's very attack-oriented, not just on offense but also on defense. What can I say? He's old-school, he's all about winning and all about championships; that's what we want."

For kicks

Fans will have a chance to meet the Union's coach next Wednesday, at 8 p.m. Peter Nowak is scheduled to be in attendance at Tir Na Nog at 16th and Arch streets for a meet-and-greet in conjunction with the U.S. Men's National Team World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.

For more information, go to www.philadelphiaunion.com. *