DC United coach Peter Nowak, noting the options he has in the team’s attack, says "we have enough options up top to score a lot of goals," one of those options being Alecko Eskandarian, who has gotten off to a strong start in the team’s first two matches.
With as many options available to Nowak, he says the team still has to avoid the tendency to "play too complicated in the back," and added that "if all the pieces are going in the same direction, then it’s going to be fun to watch our team."
Eskandarian, knowing Nowak has plenty of firepower from which to choose, says he feels no added pressure to perform after missing the majority of the 2005 season.
For more thoughts from Nowak and Eskandarian, read on for John Dyson’s interview with both players.
DC United is now two games into the regular season. What is your impression of the team’s offense to this point?
“We’ve tried different combinations in the two games. The most important thing is that we’ll continue to work the way we’ve been working.”
“We have a lot of options up top. Everyone is important to me. Freddy (Adu) came into the last game and changed the situation in the second half. Alecko (Eskandarian) did it in the first game.”
“It is important that we continue to work things that way. I have to make sure the guys recognize their ability to come in and energize the game.”
With so many good options for the offensive end of the game, how do you plan on keeping all the players happy?
“One example, even before this last game I talked with Freddy to make him realize, especially in those weather conditions, knowing that the game was going to be very hard from the beginning. I’m sure he wasn’t happy about that decision. But, if you explain to the players why you’re doing something, this stuff, that makes a good relationship.”
“They know me. They know I’m an honest guy and the way I work. You have to be honest. You have to be able to recognize that everyone is important. At certain points in the season each player will be important to this team.”
Everyone knows that expectations for Freddy Adu are high. However, you have two other younger players, Quaranta and Eskandarian, which came into the league with extremely high expectations. Neither of those players is young anymore. What are your expectations of those two players? Do they have something to prove this year?
“With Alecko, we’re very happy and fortunate that he’s back on the field. I think that it was important for him to know that we were behind him for the 10 months that he was injured. I talked a lot with him during the off-season. Me, Tommy (Soehn), and Mark (Simpson) are going to do everything we can to help him get back to where he ended the 2004 season.”
“Right now, he’s back, ready for some action and anxious to play. We have to [know] how his fitness is. We don’t want to do anything stupid and push him over the limit. We’ll let him build up slowly in game minutes. We want him to be available for us for the whole year.”
“It is the same for Santino. He got to the national team camp, spent three months there with some injuries, and now he’s back. He needs to do everything he can to come back. He knows that he was called up to the national team and played in the Gold Cup because he played very good for our team. It isn’t national team, then DC United. It is DC United first, then the national team. He realizes how important that is, and he will find his way back onto the field again.”
On the other end of the spectrum you have Moreno and Gomez. Both players can easily be considered league MVP candidates, but both are susceptible to getting worn down as the year progresses. How do you plan on tilizing them through the year? Will we see either being subbed-out such as in the last game with Gomez?
“Listen, I watch the game from a different perspective than any fan. I know that Christian is capable of doing amazing things over 90 minutes. But, I saw some little details – body language, his reactions, Jaime’s reactions – and I know when the players are starting to get fatigued. The question is, are they going to find their second breath? Or, are they going to continue to get more tired? For me, the question always is, can he deliver the goods?”
“I’m pushing them very hard, even in today’s practice, to make sure that they reach that 90 minute level.”
“That was his first game. The pre-season is completely different. I think everyone saw that with his free-kicks, he took three free-kicks that went over the bar to no one, you could see the body language, the reactions, and I asked him how he felt, it was obvious.”
“Every practice and game will help him get to the 90 minute level. I don’t feel guilty substituting him at 70 minutes if he’s not ready to deliver the goods. Freddy Adu came in and changed the game. Alecko came in at 45 minutes in the first game and changed the game.”
“We have enough options, and I don’t want to keep people waiting on the bench, to keep a tired player on the field.”
How important is it for the team to be offensively dominating this year? Does it have to score the first goal? Does it have to control possession?
“For me, the most important thing is that the team plays as a unit and that everyone understand their role. As I said in preseason, as I told you in Bradenton, their roles are going to be defined and everyone is going to have a chance to play. Right now I’m looking on both sides, defensive and offensive. I’m looking at the team from one goal to the other for the entire 90 minutes.”
“We have enough options up top to score a lot of goals. But, it is always good to have those options. Also, we have to keep Troy (Perkins) out of trouble and Facundo (Erpen) out of trouble. We still play too complicated in the back. I think that if all the pieces are going in the same direction then it’s going to be fun to watch our team.”
The team looks like it is going with a three forward formation. How does that affect your game?
“When you play a different formation different things are asked of you. I feel fine playing any of those three positions up top. Obviously each one is different. Being one of the wide guys, then it is more stretching defenses, being isolated and taking guys on one-on-one, and looking for crosses and shots.”
“The middle guy is more of a target guy. You always have to show for the ball. Make runs into the box. I’m comfortable doing that as well.”
“The beauty of the situation is that all three of the positions can alternate. We go with the flow of the game. We can also change the formation on a dime – last week we went with two up top in the second half.”
“We have a bunch of different talent on this team, so we can go at teams in different ways. It depends more on how teams are defending us.”
Specifically, with Filomeno, you haven’t played much with him, but you’ve got a sense on how he plays. What does he bring to the game in your eyes?
“I think he’s similar to Jaime. He’s good with touches to his feet and checking to the ball. He’s not so much a speed guy like myself, Freddy, or Jamil (Walker). He works hard. It’s going to take time for him to gel and get used to the players around him, and the style of this league. He’s done pretty well so far.”
With so many different attacking options for this team, what kind of pressures are you feeling to perform?
“The only real pressure I’ve ever felt is the pressure I’ve put on myself. I have expectations for myself. I feel that I’m going to go out there and work my hardest, and get the job done. I’m going to do whatever it takes to be on the field.”
“The guys on the field know that I’m going to do whatever it takes to help the team win – defending, scoring goals, being tough, being a leader, whatever.”
“Each one of us has different qualities. Our coaches are good. They are going to put out guys that give us the best chance to win. That said, there are guys that can come in the last 10 minutes and break down defenses. That’s an asset that most teams don’t have. We all have different roles.”
“For me, I’m just going to do my best to be a 90 minute player and help my team win game. That’s the bottom line.”
Your first year, not a lot of playing time to prove yourself. Second year, MVP of MLS Cup and you scored 14 goals during the year. Last year, injuries stopped you from having a full season. With the up and down nature of your career so far, do you think you have something to prove this year?
“Not really. For awhile that weighed on me and I thought about how I needed to come back and score, and to make a name for myself, and show that I’m back. It’s certainly not about that anymore. It’s my fourth year and people know what I bring to the table. It’s just about winning games. I want to win the championship.”
“Saying that I’m a ‘veteran’ means that I’m more mature. I’m not as antsy as I used to be. I let the game come to me. I’m just happy to be playing and having fun, and playing with these guys.”
“Even with the home opener some of the guys were joking with me, ‘Are you going to score when you get in?’ I didn’t even think about that. I just wanted to get in. Obviously I want to score goals, but it’s not ‘I have to score, or else!’ I just want to play and help my team win games.”