Q & A With Coach Soehn

– DC United is getting ready for the play-off push. How does this team look right now?

"I think we understand a little bit more. We're not there yet, but (we understand) what it means to play on the road and the importance of shoring up games, and doing what you have to, to win. We've always been a pretty good home team, but part of the maturity of a team through a season is understanding what it takes to do it on the road."

– The season, starting in February, is broken down into several mini-seasons, if you consider tournaments seasons in themselves. From here on out you have basically three "seasons" remaining: MLS playoffs leading to MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield, and SudAmerica. Where do you place in importance? And how are you going to attack each one of these challenges?

"I think the season carries a lot of weight. Obviously you have to manage that more than all the rest. The tournaments are sometimes a week, sometimes two weeks. We've been able to inject a lot of fresh legs throughout the course of the season, and give guys time off to make sure we're ready for those stretch runs . . . and the tournaments because there are a lot of games."

" . . . . I think we've done that well all season. We'll continue to do that the rest of the season. Like I said, there's times you take educated risks in games. This is an important stretch for us. We've got four games coming up, three of which are on the road. It's really important coming out of those games doing what we need to do. Finishing off the season at home probably makes it a little easier to play with your line up at that point. Granted, I don't know how these four games are going to work out, so as we play through that stretch of games we'll have to evaluate what we need to do for the rest of them."

– Being in the middle of a run for the Supporters' Shield, especially with a six point games coming up this weekend with Dallas, isn't there a conflict between trying to rest some of older guys . . . the veterans . . .

"I'm going to came at him soon for calling my guys old!"

– . . . or going with the best eleven and possibly tire them out for the playoffs and MLS Cup

"You're way too early to be talking playoffs. There are a lot of games to go before we get there. We've got a four game stretch here that is going to be important for us to come through with some results. And as much as the results we just had were important you always look at your next stretch of games. We've got four quality games coming up in which we have to get points if we're going to compete for the Supporters' Shield. I think you're looking further than we are. We look shorter and make sure we take care of the games that are coming up."

– One of the big differences that you've done compare to earlier coaches, such as Peter Nowak, is that you've injected new blood of the younger players throughout the year on a steady pace. Are you happy with your "Best 18"?

"Yeah, I think having done that the guys have separated themselves. You can see that they are good enough to start on any given day. It gives you a few more options. Still, throughout a season you're going to have injuries, suspensions, and having injected that throughout the year everyone knows what their role is, and how to step in, and know they've done it so that their confidence is high. A big thing is building confidence in the young guys so when they come in they impact a game."

– How difficult was it for you as a "rookie" head coach to make some of those moves? One example would be Bobby Boswell – National Team player, league Defender of the Year.

"It's not that hard. As a player, a senior player when I played, everyone was held accountable. When someone wasn't doing it, I'd tell them. I'm very honest with people. I'm sure they can contest to that. Whoever, and I've always said this, whoever shows well is going to play. There are no spots that are guaranteed. At the time we needed to make a change. Whether is sparks him (Boswell) or anyone else to play better, that's what we need – competition for spots. So, it's never that hard as long as you're being honest."

– That depth and competition seems to be most dramatic on the back line. How have seen that situation evolve?

"I think throughout the course of the season we've had depth up top, depth in the middle, and in the back depending on who is healthy and who's out, and who's in. If I recall, you guys were sitting here telling me that we had no depth in the back. We didn't change anything and now all of a sudden we have depth in the back. It's your perception of how things look. I felt that we had depth everywhere."

– You've made significant changes to the team from the start of the season – trades, bringing in new players. How difficult is it to going to be to continue with the good form of play with the current squad? Or, are you looking to make some more changes?

"The changes we've made we put a lot of thought into. You always looking to give yourself the best opportunity to be successful, whether its experience, or a type of player that compliments the other players you have . . . There are so many things you think about before you make a decision that will affect not only the guys you have here, but also the guys you're bringing in. It doesn't happen overnight. We put a lot of thought into it. You can always say that you're going to listen to opportunities that come up to make your team better, but you have to be sensitive to know that the team you put together is there for the right reasons, and that you feel confident in them. As a coach you're always looking to make your team better. As I said, the changes we made we felt were appropriate. As we've continued through the season a lot of those guys have contributed in big ways."

– It has been mentioned recently that the team is looking to make one more change via a trade. Can you expand on that?

"I'll expand on that in saying that I don't comment on rumors. It's kind of waste of all our time. Does that put that one to bed?"

– What traits made you think that "BC" (Brian Carroll) would work well on the flank?

"BC used to play on the flank in college. When he first got here we kind of turned him into a holding midfielder. He's a guy that can run all day. I think in the four years since I came here he's gotten a lot games under his belt, so his ability, as a smart soccer player, to adjust makes you put him in a situation like that and see if it becomes an option later on. From the first time we put him out there I thought that he did pretty well. Obviously there's some situations he can tuck in, but that comes with the experience of playing that side. You're always looking to see how many options you have, and what options they are. A lot of times you have it in your clubhouse. It's our job to make sure we check all options out."

– How much has Ben (Olsen) injury affecting him? How much is it hampering him?

"I think it's just wear and tear on Ben. I took Ben into the office, and we made a conscious decision to rest him because we don't have many opportunities to do that. He could have played in Toronto, but we thought it best to sit him out and give him rest needed, and hopefully have him come back refocused and a little more rested."

– After being assistant coach for a couple of years, and now several months as head coach, what is the biggest difference in your mind between the two?

"We (he and Peter Nowak) shared on everything the whole time. I don't think you just turn into a head coach. Its years of experience as a captain on a team, or playing the last couple of years on a team with your eyes open and watching everything going on behind the scenes. It's a constant process of learning from guys you coached with, or from guys who coached you. It's a constant learning experience. I don't think it changes that much."

– How about the media? At the beginning of the year most were proclaiming DC United as possibly the most complete team in MLS history. After the initial dip and some struggles now the team is coming back. How fair and accurate has the media been in talking about DC United?

"Honestly, it doesn't faze me too much because when you lose games they want your head, and when you win the team is doing great! So I'm fine with whatever criticisms there are. I've had them as a player, as an assistant coach . . . they're all the same. You just don't focus on that part, you focus on the team. We do a pretty good job of getting rid of distractions. We make sure that the locker room is where problems are solved. You don't solve problems by reading the paper."

– With the changes in personnel, and changing tactics, and the roller coaster season, has there been a lot of consternation in the clubhouse?

"Consternation? No. We make sure, first of all, it's established that when everybody gets here they know how important our locker room is. I think that anybody who has player, or been on a team where the locker room is right, that team has a better chance at being successful. When you look at guys that you're going to bring into your team, you're going to make sure, at least we do, I don't know that everybody takes this approach; you go out and get guys who understand that part. And if you find they're not that kind of guy, then we don't bring them in. There's time when things are going well, and times when things don't. The difference is having a strong locker room that can go through changes and adversity. Our locker room is strong that way."

– How concerned are you that you won but didn't dominate in Toronto, and there have been times that DC United dominated but didn't get the result?

"There's times as a coach you take a chance and you rest guys because you feel that you can afford the risk. Through the course of a year we have so many games and that was a situation where we chose to do that. We knew that that wasn't going to be the prettiest. Taking guys off that are the pretty part of our game, we knew that. You knew it was going to be a game where you roll up your sleeves and work. I credit the guys that we put in and did that. You can see when we injected the soccer players – Jaime (Moreno) and Guy (Roland-Kpene) – the soccer got better. Benny (Olsen) was missing; Josh (Gros) was missing; Luciano (Emilio), your leading goal scorer, was missing. So, we knew it was going to be like that. We took, not a gamble, an educated risk and got some rest for guys who needed it."

– How do you see Josh Gros' status right now?

"The reports are coming back a lot better than expected, so we should have him back soon."

– Is there a different message for him? Does he have to think about the "Big Picture"?

"I think it was over done a little bit. A lot of people jumped to conclusions before he was truly evaluated. It turns out that it might not be what everyone thought."

– Are you expecting him to be back this season?

"Oh yes, absolutely."

– You are going to be playing four games in the next twelve days. At this stage of the season how is that going to affect this team?

"We've been doing that for the last three months. In some respects it's not the worst to play back-to-back, especially if you get a rhythm of playing and an understanding of what you're trying to accomplish. In some respects it works in your favor?

– What are your thoughts on the Copa SudAmerica?

"We look at all our tournaments as honors to be there, and a chance to represent MLS. Anytime you get a chance to show well for your country and your league it is important. DC United has always had a high regard for how they want to do in those tournaments."

– If DC United defeats Chivas (Mexico) you will be traveling to Brazil and Argentina. How complicated will that make this towards the end of the season?

"It's been complicated all year."

– Is there anymore pressure to do well because of the lack of success in the earlier tournaments?

"Not really. We came from playing no soccer in two months to a spot where we're three-quarters of the way through the season. It's a totally different time, and a totally different situation."

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