BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chicago Fire defender C.J. Brown knows all about Peter Nowak's demeanor and accomplishments within the game of soccer. Brown is the only Fire Original on the 2010 squad, and he had the pleasure of playing on the same pitch as the current Philadelphia Union head coach.
On Wednesday, Brown reflected on the Fire's early years alongside Nowak, who brought his game at whatever the cost.
"He was always a hard-nosed guy," Brown said. "Obviously he was our playmaker, but he was also our enforcer at times. When it came down to games that needed to get dug out, he was the guy digging. He was fighting. He was an attacking player. He was a defensive player. From one 18[-yard box] to the other 18. If our sweeper went down, he would play sweeper. He would do whatever it takes to win games."
If Nowak can remotely feed that same playing ability within his own players, the Union have every reason to feel hopeful that they are headed in the right direction. Philadelphia is Chicago's next assignment this Saturday when the Fire (2-4-3) host the Union (2-5-1) at Toyota Park. The expansion squad has had some growing pains, but the Union made a big stride this past weekend with a road victory over the Houston Dynamo.
"They've had their ups and downs throughout this year, but that's expected for a new team," Brown said. "They're still jelling. They're coming off a very good win against Houston, which is very difficult. So I think their confidence is high. If I know Peter, they're going to feed off that and try to bring it in here."
The Union sit toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but they also have played the second-fewest matches among MLS teams. And under the leadership of Nowak, Brown is taking this Philadelphia team quite seriously.
"It's going to be a hard-nosed team that won't give up," Brown said. "They're going to be solid when it comes to trying to tackle and make plays. And they're going to be mentally strong.
"Peter knows how to get into those guys' heads," Brown said. "It's not going to be easy for us."
Fire add exhibition: Chicago will play an exhibition match against the NSC Minnesota Stars at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 20 at NSC Stadium in Blaine, Minn. The Stars play in the USSF Division 2 Pro League and are coached by former Fire midfielder Manny Lagos.