The Argentine trio of Facundo Erpen, Lucio Filomeno and Christian Gomez talked to John Dyson before leaving Bradenton about being able to play on the same team with fellow countrymen, and expressed their desire to bring another championship to DC United. For details of the interview, read on for more:
Facundo Erpen – (paren are my interpretation of what he means)
How is your preseason going right now?
“The preseason is pretty good. It is tough because we run everyday. We are running (to be ready for this tournament (preseason). We are running everyday to be ready for the main tournament (regular season). It is going to be hard.”
What is the hardest part? Is it the physical part, getting back to playing good soccer, the mental strain?
“Both. You need the physical (part) because if you don’t have the physical you don’t make the tackles (you aren’t ready for building skills). So, you need the physical so you can read the ball because then you make the goals (you first work on physical, then skills, then score goals). That’s the point. We are pretty good in the last two weeks. We are playing good in the tournament. We are going to win championship.”
What was the hardest thing to adjust to coming into the team?
“My opinion, the physical is hard. Here you play one-two touches, then run. In Argentina it is more pass. In Argentina they like Maradona, Ortega . . . Here it is too fast. (In Argentina they like to see individual skills and not so much team play.) It was not too easy when I see (saw it on) TV. This way I learn the game for training everyday. I work one month, two month to get American way.”
How does competing with Bobby Boswell for central defensive position make you feel?
“It’s better because we are friends from first moment. He play on starting team. He’s very good player, he’s young. They know him on USA team. We’re friends. Me and him are training together. It is good for us we playing the same position. I learn to him and he learn to me. It’s not a competition. We are one team. We are a team to win the tournament.”
What has Coach Nowak said he expects from you?
“He expects from me . . . I play easy. I don’t want number ten (shirt – playmaker) for Peter. Number ten (is) not me. I need to do the easy job – tackles, then touch it for the midfielders, that’s it. Peter say to me it’s like this and be best defender in league.”
Why do you think this team will win the championship this year?
“Because last year we couldn’t win the games in Chicago, and Santiago, Chile, and we (were) not lucky for USA Cup. So, this object for this year is championship. We know we are the best team in the league. We have four cups in Major League Soccer. It is always better to say, ‘We are the champions’.”
How is preseason going for you right now?
“Good. It is hard training at first physically. Maybe sometimes you get tired, but you got to keep going. At the end of pre-season you will see the results. You expect to do well in tournaments, so we are preparing so hard.”
What is the hardest part about preseason? Is it mental? Physical?
“Right now? Of course it is physical. At this time it is tough on the legs especially. If your mind is OK, everything will go better.”
How important is it for you to have other Argentinean players on the team?
“I played in another country before, and I had players from my country so it was a difficult adaptation. For me, right now, it is pretty good especially when you have Christian (Gomez), and have Facundo arrive here two months before me. Christian is the most important though. I played with him before in Nueva Chicago, Argentina. He was the most important thing for me here.”
“But it is not the most important thing. The most important this is playing. You play, and you play in a good situation, maybe outside the field you are good with your mind, good with time.”
How are you approaching the game different this year compared to last year when you first came?
“I have been in the same situation in other countries in other tournaments. We you get to playoffs it is different because maybe you finish in the first position, and there is pressure of being the champions. But that team that arrives in third position, they have no pressure on them. They were thinking . . . it so different. It is different kind of tournaments (regular season versus playoffs). The regular season you can find your play . . . you can find your ground . . . . It is two different tournaments. Mentally you have to prepare for this one first (regular season). You can have mistakes. But in final rounds (playoffs) it is difficult to prepare for now.”
How do you feel about the competition at the forward position?
“I know Jaime here play different from my position. He’s not a striker, he’s forward. Alecko I have not seen play before because of his injury and I am a new player here. The competition must be strong. Competition anywhere you have to be prepare each week, everyday. Every training is an example. You have to keep on going doing your best. The truth is on the field on the day of the match. Nothing else.”
Why do you think this is a championship team?
“The most important thing we are DC United. We are the biggest club in the USA with all the tradition, and all the history. That’s the number one. Particularly, we have the players, the team, the coach, the system, we are working for that. For me it would be a disappointment not to win.
Christian Gomez (translated by Francisco Tobar)
How is the preseason going for you physically and mentally?
“Basically, the physical aspect is normal. It’s the normal thing that you go through in preseason with a lot of pains and aches. We understand that it is the base, the foundation, for the entire season. It is something that we have to go through.”
“Mentally, it has been a little bit tough now that we are two weeks in. It ends up being tougher mentally later in preseason. We had a day off Sunday, which made us feel better because we needed a little bit of a break, some fresh air. Wednesday will be our last day and then we will be able to move on to something else.”
Coach Nowak talked about the mental let down at the end of last year. How are you as a team captain helping prepare the team to not allow that to happen this year?
“Understanding that DC United is an elite club, the expectations are very high. Unfortunately, last year we were not able to win the tournaments that we participated in. This year we’re aware that we are participating in only two. The idea is to win at least one, if not both. It starts with me. I think the expectation level is very high for us.”
“The experience we got from last year, the playoffs, obviously has given us a different look on things when they don’t go our way. That has helped dealing with the younger players.”
With Erpen, Filomeno, Moreno, and now your younger brother trying out for the team, do you think this team is trying to capture some South American style in its play? Do you think that idea helps your game?
“Having those guys here is a definite help. There is a better understanding on the field. There are many times just looking in their eyes you kind of know if they are going for the long pass or the short pass along the ground. They bring a lot of experience, and bring that South American style of play.”
“That isn’t necessarily what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to play good soccer, which is what the coach is asking of us. That may or may not necessarily be the South American style. We not only trying to go from side to side with the ball, but we trying to be a little more attacking, direct, get behind the defense, create more opportunities.”
What is it like to have your little brother on the team?
“It’s certain a beautiful thing to have this opportunity to play with him. Back in Argentina we played among friends, but never at a professional level. In this pre-season we’ve had the opportunity to do so. He’s a lot younger than I am. He’s learning as he goes as well. We lived through a lot of nice things together growing up, and this is one more thing I hope we have the opportunity to do. I have a great sense of pride to have him here with me, trying to make an impact on the team. Hopefully he will be able to stay and we will be able to experience more things together.”
Why do you think this team is a championship team this year?
“As a player, one always has the dream of being in the championship game. We have a lot of young players on the team that have had the opportunity to train with the National Team. We have had young guys that have trained at higher levels, and in higher competition in international games, which will lead to a better team and a better team concept, a better opportunity to mix those experiences with our experience here with some of the veteran players.”
“We all understand that playing for DC United is a big responsibility. DC United is now a big club. It is well known in South America. We had the opportunity to participate in the South America Cup. We didn’t achieve the result we wanted, but we ended up showing to the South American people that soccer in the USA is growing. DC United left a very good taste in their mouths based on our performance in Chile.”
“So, based on all that, and with the guys coming back from the National Team we should be a strong squad going into the season.”
What are your personal goals this year?
“One aspires to always be a better player than last year. Last year I had a pretty good year, and I’d like to duplicate that. I want to have good success so that the team has good success. Based on that, I just have to keep working hard and set my sights high. It is more important that the team does well. My personal goals aren’t as important as the team achieving high goals.”