Though the forwards have not scored goals in the last two weeks, they’re doing the necessary extra work off the ball, according to DC United coach Peter Nowak and Alecko Eskandarian, who played down his on-field run-in with Jaime Moreno during the team’s loss in Colorado.
Nowak says Moreno needs "to use the options around him and create space for other people," and adds that his coaching is the biggest of the team’s weaknesses six games into the season. Nowak, though, is pleased to see Bryan Namoff’s return from injury. It’s something Namoff says still mystifies him, but he’s found a way to get through the pain and retake the field.
For more with Nowak, Eskandarian and Namoff, read what they had to say to John Dyson:
The strikers haven’t scored in the past two weeks. What is your impression on how they are playing?
"I’ve been really happy with them because they are doing the extra work, the dirty work. They’ve been leaving spaces for the other players, so we’re not going to be that predictable. I think it is important for others to know where the strikers are going. They’ve done a great job both offensively and defensively. I’m really happy with them. We continue to work with all of the strikers–Lucio [Filomeno] and Freddy [Adu] and Santino [Quaranta] is coming back. There’s a lot of work to do. As far as how many goals we’ve scored and who has scored, I’m happy with that because the most important thing for us is to be unpredictable. We can’t let the other teams close up options, so I’m happy with that."
Specifically, with Jaime Moreno, not only is he not scoring but his distribution hasn’t been as good. Is there anything specific with him that needs to change?
"I think sometimes he needs to play the ball a little faster and simple. He needs to use the options around him and create space for other people, like our second line players, such as Christian [Gomez] and Freddy. Everyone needs to do their jobs. Defensively he was very good. The most important thing for us to know is that we have options up top and other teams have to guess who is going to score and how. I think he’s not happy with himself having just two goals in the last six games. There’s still a lot of work to do and he knows it. He’s working extra hard to get better. In the back of his mind he wants to score a lot of goals and be the MVP."
Are you happy with your start to the season?
"If you look at the standings we can be satisfied. Of course, we want more points, but the team is playing well. I’m not surprised that we have this many points right now. It would be nice to win six games straight, but I didn’t expect it to happen. The last game in Colorado was tough because of the altitude. It’s always tough to go there because the people are always saying we should do more, we should press, we should play our game. I don’t think those people have ever touched a ball playing at Mile High Stadium. It’s not possible to do that. We need to play smart. We made two individual mistakes and let up the goals. With our experience that’s not supposed to happen."
It’s early in the season, but you’re facing Kansas City for possible first place in the conference. Does that fact make this game more important?
"We know that from the first day where we wanted to be. When teams come to our place they aren’t looking to play a wide open game against us. They look for a chance to score and steal three points. In the worst case scenario they are looking for one point. We have to be patient. We have to know what we can play and the way we play. I think we’ve found a good balance in our lineup. They are reading the game pretty well right now. Kansas City is no different. We know it’s going to be a difficult game. First place is on the line and we’re going to there."
How do you feel Bryan Namoff played?
"Bryan Namoff is not Ben Olsen. Bryan brings a lot of defensive work in that position, and Ben is more offensive minded in this case. He did very well considering that he hasn’t played in so very long. It’s important to know that he’s back. We need him on the field. In that position he did well. It’s not easy to play after six months, especially at that altitude. The team played a lot of balls up top, and then just fought for the ball. I was happy that he was on the field, and we’re going to continue to work with him as a defensive midfielder or a right back."
He hasn’t played there for four years…
"No, he played there last year against Dallas."
He hasn’t played in that position for several games in a row. How long are you willing to continue using him in that role? How do you see the future of that position while Olsen is out?
"I don’t know. We’ll see what happens with our team, and what options we have. I cannot predict how it will be. Clyde [Simms] is feeling better right now, and everyday he’s bringing something new. With Benny Olsen gone for the next two months, sometime he will be playing in that position, sometimes he will be playing in the back. We have to determine that before each game. For me, the most important thing is that he’s back on the field. There was a lot of talk about him having surgery, or he’s the guy that won’t be able to come on this year. I’m just happy that’s he back on the field. Whatever his position I’m sure he’ll be happy just to be on the field. For me it’s not a question right now."
Six games into the season, what do you think the biggest weakness on the team is at the moment?
Does that include you?
"That’s mainly me."
How would you assess the way the strikers are playing this season?
"I think we’ve done pretty well. To my knowledge we haven’t been shut out as a team. We really pride ourselves on playing team offense and defense. You just mentioned that the strikers haven’t scored in the last two games and I was like, ‘Huh, I had no idea’, because we don’t really care who is on the end of the goal because it’s such a team process. I know for a fact that the strikers have a lot to do with the goals, whether it’s making runs to create space, or getting an assist, it’s a team thing. We take a lot of pride in attack as a team. I would be disappointed if it was only strikers scoring because you really need your midfield guys coming up to join the attack, taking shots. With that said, the strikers need to score too. That’s our job."
"I think in the last two games, with Dallas and Colorado, they both played four in the back, which makes it a little more difficult to find space as a forward because there’s an extra defender. It also makes it easier for a midfielder to come in from behind, so that’s probably been the case."
How frustrating is it to face goalies in the last two games that have had great games?
"That’s how it goes. You can’t score 100 goals every game. I wasn’t frustrated at all. The only time I get frustrated is when I don’t have any chances. Those are the days that I take a look in the mirror and say, ‘OK, something is wrong.’ For me, as long as I’m getting chances, and deep down I know that should have had two goals that day, I have confidence in myself, and I put that pressure on myself enough to know that next time I’m going to get it right. As a striker, as long as you get chances you’re happy. As long as your team is winning you’re happy. Like you said, it’s early in the season so there’s no reason to push the panic button. We are playing good soccer, and we’ve outplayed all of our opponents so far."
Lately Jaime Moreno doesn’t seem to be playing as well as he would like to be playing. Is there anything specific you see with him?
"No, if there is anything you guys see you should ask him. I really don’t have anything to say about that."
You and Jaime were caught on camera in the last game arguing in the second half. What was said?
"We were just exchanging recipes. … No, it was nothing. It happens.
How are you feeling now?
"I don’t know if I’m over the injury, but I do feel good. It was a question of fighting through the pain, and continually rehabbing. It’s something I’ll have to do each and every day to keep it strong."
Do you know exactly what the problem is?
"That’s the million dollar question. It’s related to my hernia surgery. Whether its scar tissue that has built up around the nerve, or maybe it’s just a deep groin strain in the muscle."
What has Nowak told you your role–defender? Defensive midfielder?
"That was the role last week, to fill in for Ben Olsen. It’s great credit to him to get accepted onto the World Cup team. On the other side, it’s another added responsibility for me to fill in his position at this time."
"I don’t know what the lineup will be for this upcoming weekend. If it is the same, then that’s the position I’ll have to fill."
After being primarily a defender for the last four years, how difficult is it to make the change to defensive midfielder?
"Yeah, it’s definitely a new position. It’s not as comfortable as where I have been playing, at the right back position. It’s something that you’ve got to ease into. It’s a different mindset. You take a 360 degree approach, where before in the right back position it’s straight up and down. It’s something that I’ll have to play more, and if I do have to fill that position, then it’s just gaining confidence and playing as simple as I can."
Which position do you prefer?
"I’ve played in the back for so long now that I’ve grown accustomed to it. That’s where I’m the most efficient, or where the team can most benefit."
When Olsen returns he’ll want his position back. How do you feel about that?
"That will be the question. The one good thing about it is that I do have that versatility, which is an asset to the team. I can play in that position if the need is there due to injuries or the World Cup situation. When the time comes, and Benny comes back, it looks like I’ll be competing for a starting position in the back. It will keep it highly competitive, which will only add to the improvement of the team."
Kansas City is coming in and they’re missing a few players. How does that affect the team?
"KC has always had that hard-working mentality. It’s the true test of those two Midwestern teams. They’re still going to come in and fight hard. It’s going to be a game that’s going to require 100% effort. We’re at home in front of our home crowd and that’s our biggest asset. That’s going to give us that confidence to get that first goal."
What happened in Colorado?
"In Colorado we played a game of halves. In the first half I thought it was a good half on the road. There weren’t too many opportunities on either end. Maybe if that shot by Jamil [Walker] goes in and we’re and we’re up 1-0 at halftime, but that wasn’t the case. It is a benefit going into halftime 0-0. I think we just let it slip away. We got careless in certain situations where we didn’t pressure, and by that there were a couple of mistakes in the back, which led to the penalty kick, which led to a miscommunication on the second goal. So, it was a whole team performance. I don’t think we came out as well as we did in the first half, and we paid for it. Colorado does have good players."