Anyone who has been inducted into the Chicago Fire's Ring of Fire simply got it. They understood the game and were passionate about their role in building the Fire organization. Their work ethic and drive jelled from the get-go, and Fire supporters have every reason to put this group on a pedestal.
So when Fire original and current Philadelphia Union head coach Peter Nowak took some time Thursday to chat, you cannot help but think about the start of the Fire days and a man who was integral in establishing the Fire. Now he is establishing a new team in the passionate city of Philadelphia.
Nowak will be on the Toyota Park sidelines this Saturday when the Fire host the Union in Bridgeview, Ill.
Here are some excerpts from Nowak's discussion on Thursday:
On the work ethic of the early Fire years:
"Everybody being in the sports business, you want to win. You want to be first. And that requires work. That requires the work ethic, the understanding, and every piece must be in place. … Even going to Michael Jordan in Chicago, I don't think the teammates loved to play with him or they want to train with him because he demands a lot of stuff from them, and he demands the best. And I think being in the position we were in '98 -- that we have a new team, we built a team with Bob [Bradley] as a coach, with me and Lubos [Kubik], and Roman [Kosecki] and Jerzy Podbrozny, where we demand the best. Because we saw it firsthand, we wanted to show the guys with the potential like C.J. [Brown] and Chris Armas and even Zach [Thornton] and Ante Razov, Josh Wolff, Frankie Klopas -- all these guys -- Frankie was in Europe, as well. But if you want to win something, it requires work every single day, every single week. If you want to win at the end of the day, at the end of the season, you want to win the trophy, then you have to win the small games, the small balls. So that was more like philosophy as a team."
On his coaching methods:
"The coaching methods are just the middle part -- how the players will execute, understand. It's not easy to train and play for me, but I recognize that, as well. But to achieve what you want to achieve, you have to have a great relationship with the players and I believe that over the years, the last 13 years, I've had a great relationship with the players I've played with and the players I've coached."
On his role with the expansion Union:
"It's never about me, and I believe that it's never going to be about me. As I said, sometimes people try to attach this stuff like who's a rival, you've been there, you've been with these guys, you've done that ... it doesn't really matter. It doesn't affect anybody except the guys playing the game. Those guys need to understand that they're playing the game to fill the concept of teamwork, to fill the concept of our philosophy, our vision as a team. It's never going to be about Peter Nowak. Peter Nowak is just here to help this team to build the right structure, to show them the way, show them the door. But I'm not the one who's going to go through the door."
On his team's growth in the early going:
"The last couple of weeks we recognized the mistakes, we spent a lot of time watching film and discussing it. Real discussion. Not my monologue and demands and stuff. They need to understand the concept and philosophy and the roles of the player on the field, regardless of who we play. They need to know what to do on the field when we're winning, what to do on the field when we're losing, what is the team concept going forward, what is the minute we're playing. The guys on the bench need to recognize that, as well. For me, the last two games when we scored goals and the whole bench is almost on the middle of the field, it says a lot. The guys stay together, keep working together. As a team we are evolving in the right direction right now."