RIDING THE HIGH.
It's what Union manager Peter Nowak stressed his team must do heading into Saturday's match against San Jose, the top club in MLS' Western Conference.
In his weekly meeting with the media Wednesday, Nowak said that the mood in his locker room is "great," and that many core players are improving. Now it's just a matter of transferring that feeling of confidence and prosperity into game situations, starting with the game against the Earthquakes (5-1-1, 16 points) at PPL Park (7 p.m., CSN).
"Despite all the odds and obstacles against us, we are still getting the points," Nowak said. "I think the feeling in the locker room is pretty good . . . Offensively, we are still a work in progress, but we are always talking about attacking, entertaining soccer, but we have to remember that we have to use what will give us results and success."
That budding success has again stemmed from a stingy defensive unit, featuring goalkeeper Zac MacMath, that has allowed the Union (2-3-1, seven points) to play 332 minutes of scoreless soccer, with MacMath boasting his third shutout in as many games.
"I tried to convince you all [in the beginning of the season] that Zac MacMath was the guy in between the posts, and some of you believed me and some of you don't," Nowak said. "For the goalkeeper position like that, for there to be no shot on goal [in games against Vancouver and Columbus] that means the back line has helped out a lot. It's simple - when the back line plays good, Zac is very good, and when Zac is playing good, the back line plays better."
MacMath will be without Gabriel Farfan at left back on Saturday. Farfan picked up a red card in Saturday's 1-0 road win over Chivas USA. Right midfielder Keon Daniel is also out after a red card.
Nowak also will miss the San Jose match after his ejection against Chivas USA, which includes a mandatory one-game suspension. Nowak said that he doesn't plan to appeal the suspension and that the focus now is finding the right personnel to replace Daniel and Farfan.
Based on how Nowak explained it Wednesday, rookie Raymon Gaddis should stay at his customary right back position Saturday, with Sheanon Williams or Porfirio Lopez filling Farfan's left back role.
"We can dispute the cards and calls one way or the other, but it's not going to help us; what helped us was earning the three points," Nowak said. "Now it's a matter of putting the right guys in position. Either Sheanon can fill the left back position or Porfirio, but we'll see where we are.
"[As far as the midfield], Freddy [Adu] had a great game over the weekend and has a great mental game right now. He's playing with a lot of confidence. We have been pushing pretty hard in the past couple of weeks, and the understanding is that we have to push forward more and shoot from distance. It's a process, and I stress that it's important for these guys to play with confidence."
Nowak did say he'd like to see more production from his forwards, specifically Lionard Pajoy. Though Nowak thinks Pajoy is a workhorse, he said the Colombian import needs to find a way to transfer his energy into goals.
"It's not only about checking for the ball all the time, you have to keep the defenders guessing," Nowak said. "Sometimes it's about putting the ball over the top and spreading the defense. In some capacity, we stretch too much and [now you have Pajoy] batting two to three defenders, and this is tough to do. So far he is doing a good job, but he needs to score goals. It's a combination of things that make him successful, and he's a hard worker, but it's not always short-short [in passing the ball], but short-long, so defenders can't guess where he's always going to be. We are working on that, and with everything. So far, so good."