UNION BOSS Peter Nowak knows the pressure is on. But he also thinks the pressure is on for every team in Major League Soccer.
Speaking during his weekly press conference yesterday in the aftermath of Monday's 3-1 loss in Portland, Nowak was firm in his belief that judging any team off the basis of one game is unfair.
"How can I say that after just one game? I don't think any team can," Nowak said. "No one in this league can say that their team is headed for the championship after just one game, not even [defending MLS champions] Los Angeles. I've said it before, I think we have the right pieces to make a run, but we need to progress and I think that is going to come with time."
Little time exists before the Union's next test, the home-opener against Colorado, a team Nowak knows will bring even more intensity to PPL Park on Sunday (4 p.m., NBC Sports Network). The Union looks to avenge a 2-1 loss at home last July against a club that features new coach Oscar Pareja.
Former Rapids coach Gary Smith, who led the team to the MLS Cup in 2010, left at the end of last season to take the job with English club Stevenage.
Besides a new coach, the Rapids made few changes this offseason and return a core group headlined by speedy Jamaican forward Omar Cummings.
"I think Colorado is even more physical than [Portland]," Nowak said. "They changed their system and their coach, but they still play a physical, high-intensity game. Oscar preaches a possession game with quick transition, so these are complex things we need to address. We have to match their intensity and physicality."
Nowak said the loss to Portland was not without positives, which must be accentuated against Colorado. He plans to emphasize small, sided games and drills to prepare for Sunday. But he also noted that getting his players comfortable off the field, so their minds can firmly focus on the task of winning a championship, is imperative.
"It was a long preseason and we still have players still looking to getting settled into their homes, finish moves, bring over their families," Nowak said. "We don't want these kinds of things on the back of our players' brains and I think that once they have that stability, it'll be easier to these guys [all around]. But I think we had a good first game in terms of the guys seeing how the intensity and crowds are. Now they know how it's going to be. The guys that have been here for a while have told the new players what to expect from our home fans, so I am confident they will get up for this one."
Odds and endlines
Peter Nowak told reporters in Portland over the weekend that Roger Torres suffered a sprained ankle during the team's preseason trip to Costa Rica, keeping him off the roster for the season-opener. Nowak said the crafty midfielder will be on Sunday's roster. Torres, who wasn't on the club's injury list, was seen training Tuesday at YSC Sports in Wayne, without complications. As for defender Chris Albright, Nowak said his groin injury has improved and could be in the lineup as well . . . Playing the season-opener on the road is getting old for Nowak: "We've asked [the league] for 3 years now to open our season at home. It hasn't happened. I hope next year we get the chance to play at home for the players and our fans."