It appears a dose of reality may have finally struck Union manager Peter Nowak.
Putting all his faith in an unproven goalkeeper at this level has been nothing short of disappointing.
It took 8 months, 165 days (since the March 25 opener in Seattle) and 38 goals against, for Chris Seitz to finally be lambasted in a postgame conference by his manager - the same manager who once said that, through thick and thin, this team is "sticking with Chris."
I once asked Nowak if the technical staff was looking at other options in goal, given the appearance that Seitz was still perhaps learning the ropes. "This isn't the NFL, you can't just change a player because he's had one or two bad games," he said. "We believe in Chris' abilities and we feel confident with him in goal."
My recorder logged that quote on April 25, the day of a 2-1 loss to Red Bull New York in Harrison, N.J.
Less than 6 months later, a much different tune - one with more bravado - was sung by Nowak after last Saturday's demoralizing stalemate with Kansas City.
"I think we all know that we were supposed to win this game, there is no question about that," Nowak said. "First of all we cannot feel sorry for ourselves; Chris [Seitz] made a huge mistake. When we control the game for 70 minutes . . . this is disappointing; we still believe he has the ability to make the crucial saves . . . I think the guys in front of him made it easy for him today and when it comes to the crucial moments he needs to be there for his team."
There isn't a pry bar large enough to loosen the tongues of the technical staff regarding who will be in goal this week. But the buzz in a few circles is that it wouldn't be surprising - given the manager's comments and his penchant for teaching lessons - if backup Brad Knighton gets the nod tomorrow.
Knighton recently escaped from Nowak's doghouse with a shutout performance against Chivas de Guadalajara in the Sept. 1 friendly. The clean sheet marked his second, including a 1-0 blanking of Celtic FC in July. Nowak gave Knighton the keys on Aug. 8 against FC Dallas, but the 24-year-old former Revolution man was ejected in the 22nd minute after a red-card foul in his 18-yard box.
"It feels good, plus it's an honor to play one of the best clubs in the world," Knighton said after the win against Chivas. "I know mistakes happen and I tried not to dwell on it, but it was really hard to get over making that mistake in Dallas. I am not gonna lie, it feels good to get out of the doghouse and have another chance to prove myself. But it's not about that, it's more about proving to my coaches and my teammates that I deserve as much chance as anyone to get out on that pitch. Hopefully my performance tonight helped."
Barring a miracle that would involve a complete collapse of the league's best teams, the Union won't be in the MLS playoff picture. Doesn't that make this a good time to get behind a player like Knighton? Give Seitz a break from the pressure? The technical staff strongly views Seitz as a future star in the league, and many view him as the future of the U.S. national team.
That may be, but in the immediate future of the Union, his only view should be from the sidelines.
FIFA gets cheesesteaks
On Monday, members of the FIFA Inspection Delegation began touring five of 18 cities currently under consideration as hosts, should soccer's world governing body award the United States the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. The bid committee website said the delegation, specifically chief inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who is also president of the Chilean Football Association dined on cheesesteaks while at a luncheon in New York City earlier this week.
New York/New Jersey, Washington D.C., Miami, Dallas and Houston were the stops for the group. A six-team delegation that featured 6ABC president and general manager Bernie Prazenica and Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz made the NYC trip on Philadelphia's behalf.
I am sure you can follow the degrees of separation, but if it's hazy, PPL Park is projected to become one of the practice venues should Philadelphia be designated a host city. The graphic image of the Park is in the bid summary submitted to FIFA. Furthermore, ABC and ESPN have the rights to the FIFA World Cup through 2022, which makes Prazenica's input all the more vital because he's representing Philadelphia and his network, which holds the U.S. television rights for the event.
"We have a very excellent longstanding relationship with the guys at U.S. Soccer and we try to make it known that our stadium is always available to them," Sakiewicz told the Daily News just before the NYC trip. PPL Park will host a pair of U.S. men's and women's national team games next month. "U.S. Soccer doesn't just throw games around; we had to sell ourselves, which is what you always have to do in this business."
FIFA leaves this weekend, but won't make the official announcements until December. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is scheduled to speak to the media today. It's expected he will offer insight as to the direction the delegation is leaning.
But it will be 3 more months until we really know if all those cheesesteaks and schmoozing whet FIFA's appetite.
Shots on goal
Chicago Fire (6-7-8, 26 points) at Union (5-11-6, 21)
When: Tomorrow, 6 p.m.
Where: PPL Park, Chester
TV: Fox Soccer Channel
For kicks: Chicago visits PPL Park for its second game in 4 days after a scoreless draw Wednesday with Toronto FC. The Fire could be without midfielder John Thorrington, who left Wednesday's match with muscle cramps related to a leg injury that sidelined him for more than 6 months . . . Union midfielder Justin Mapp is expected to start against his former club . . . Fire playmaker Patrick Nyarko will be the one to keep an eye on. In 17 games, Nyarko has dished seven assists . . . This will be the first and only time former men's national teamer Brian McBride will play at PPL Park. A veteran of three World Cups (1998, 2002, 2006), McBride, 38, is expected to retire from MLS this season after 15 years.
Out for the Union: Toni Stahl, DF (ankle strain)
Doubtful: Juan Diego Gonzalez, DF (left groin strain); Michael Orozco Fiscal, DF (left hamstring strain); Eduardo Coudet, MF (right calf strain)
Questionable: Andrew Jacobson, MF (right foot contusion)
Probable: Shea Salinas, DF (left fibula fracture); Fred, MF (right groin strain).
Questionable for the Fire: John Thorrington, MF (leg injury).
Did you know?
Philadelphia is all over Fox Soccer Channel tomorrow. FSC is scheduled to air the Union-Fire game at 5:30 p.m. followed by the Independence's regular-season finale against the Bay Area's FC Gold Pride at 8:30 p.m.
What player has scored goals that have clinched three MLS Cups for his team?
A. Cobi Jones, Los Angeles Galaxy
B. Marco Etcheverry, D.C. United
C. Eric Wynalda, Los Angeles Galaxy
D. Eddie Pope, D.C. United
By Jamie Clary, author of the First American Soccer Trivia Book, available at: www.soccerprofessor.com
Send search engine-free answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Answer will appear in upcoming Union Meeting. Congrats to Steve O'Rourke from Bordentown, N.J., who correctly answered "The Wiz" as the original name for the Kansas City Wizards.