"We know we're an expansion team and it's not going to be an easy season for us," Nowak said. "But in this league, the difference between the No. 1 team and the No. 16 team is not a big difference. The only difference is how hard you are willing to work."
Nowak has worked his players hard so far, which is his reputation. The Polish native, who starred in Germany's Bundesliga before coming to the United States to win an MLS title as both a player and a coach, is not exactly Mr. Rogers when it comes to management style. To him, a professional soccer career must rest on the intricate spider web woven by endless practice and dedication to the craft.
"YouTube highlights are not good enough for me," he said. "For me, you have to come to work every day like every other worker in the country. Then, the rest of the time, you have to think what you can do to make your game better."
The trick is translating that harsh, Cold War struggle to succeed to a generation of players who either have graduated through elite academies and developmental programs or found the swimming easy enough in the comparatively shallow waters of Major League Soccer.
Nowak's methods are a cold plunge for some of them, and many might not have known the real meaning of hard work before the Union began training.
"They do now," Nowak said. "I know that it is not easy to train and play for me. I know that very well. They know it's going to be hard, but sooner or later, these young men with great potential will realize that potential needs to be shown on the field. It's good for a coach to have a team with potential, but potential will get you fired at some point."