Nowak Looking For United To Play ‘As A Unit’

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. 

Peter Nowak

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.”

Alecko Eskandarian

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.”

Practice Notes And Quotes: Erpen, Filomeno, Gomez

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’.”

Lucio Filomeno

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.”

Nowak: ‘I’m Not Going To Tolerate Anything Other Than Winning’

Peter Nowak said after the 10 days DC United spent in Bradenton, Florida that he "learned to be tough again," and said he leaves "impressed with what kind of team we have right now."

He also said players such as Matt Nickell, Justin Moose, Devon McTavish and Andy Metcalf have stood out, but he said he was impressed with the whole crop of new players.  

He said the returning national team players will create more competition within the squad, and though the team set a record for lowest goals-against-average, along with being the highest scoring team in the MLS regular season, Nowak said the team can improve by "winning games."

For Nowak’s take on the preseason to date, read below:

With the first phase of preseason now complete, how did it go?

“I think we’ve had a pretty tense and pretty tough two weeks behind us.  I think the whole group did a pretty good job coming together.  I was very impressed with the work from all the rookies.  We’re moving forward.  The first step has been made, but there is a lot of work to do considering we have guys coming from the National Team and we have to put the pieces together.  Overall, I’m very impressed with what kind of team we have right now.  I think they guys came along pretty good.”

You said at the beginning of this phase that conditioning was the priority.  Did you met those goals?  How happy are you with the team’s speed, endurance, etc.?

“From the conditioning drills you witnessed, you know they put a lot of work in that.  A few are tired.  They hit the wall a little bit.  After eight days in this camp it is tough.  The touch and the speed (of play) will come.  We’re still going to do a lot of work with the ball and tactical work and shooting drills.  Everything will come step by step.  Like I said, I’m very impressed with the fitness.  Everyone is at a good starting point before we go to Spain and Charleston.”

Also part of the condition is the mental aspect.  How much improvement in that area did this team improve on here in Bradenton?  It looked like there was a let down in the Real Salt Lake game, and some similar problems in today’s game against Kansas City?

“The most important thing is that when you are tired you still have to remember your principals and values – what the game requires from you.  After the Salt Lake City game I was happy with the guys, even though they were struggling, after the game they were fighting through it.  I could see it Saturday morning when we all we had was pure fitness for over two hours.  Nobody complained, they motivated themselves and their teammates.  That’s the stuff I was looking for.”

“Sometimes the game isn’t going to go your way and you have to motivate yourself.  You have to keep going and motivate your teammates.  Those were the qualities I was looking for and I’ve told you that before.  There were still moments in the when we just turn off.  But, I thought today’s game was a good step forward considering it came at the end of the two weeks.”

Two years ago you were a new coach and the preseason was spent with you and the players trying to get to know each other.  Last year there wasn’t much time for the team to build with practice because you were immediately playing games.  This year is the first time you have had time to slowly develop in preseason.  Are things significantly different for the team’s preparation, and how are they different?

“We just want to use the full two months of preseason.  It is important that we stay together and recognize what pieces we need as a team to build our team.”

“The first year I knew most of the players.  The part that was important to me was convincing them, and making them believe they were strong as a team.  Maybe we didn’t come together in the first camp, but definitely in Guadalajara.”

“Last year there wasn’t much time.  We basically played the Championship tournament, and in the pre-season we were forced to get ready.”

“Right now it is nice.  We are looking at the new players that joined the team.  We are looking for what we need.  We are looking to go to Spain with the same strong mentality.  For me, the important thing is that I want to have winners on the team.  I want to have guys that want to win the starting spot.  Not only to win a starting spot, but to hold that starting spot.  For me, it is important to make a very competitive starting environment.  I am looking for who wants to play on this team, who wants to compete on this team, and who wants to win.  I have time to do that right now.  The book is wide open for everybody.”

“We don’t need to get hooked on the (training) system.  What is important is that we go through Bradenton, Spain, and Charleston and on April 2 you will have your Best XI on the field.  That was the mentality we had in 2004.”

What was the reason that you released Joey Worthen?

“I don’t want to go into details on that.  We were obligated to look at Joey.  We needed to make a decision one way or another at this time.  We decided to go this way.  Joey is a great kid, and we enjoyed working with him.  But, the decision was made.  I think if we could have more time with him it could be much better.  It wasn’t our decision.”

It is early, but Justin Moose, your first round draft pick, seems to being playing well.  What are our impressions of him?

“Justin has shown a lot of qualities.  We were very impressed in the first week when he went so hard  . . . I think these were the first practices like this for him, and then he was knocked pretty good in the second game against New York.  We gave him a couple of days off then.  You can see the qualities that are important in the game.  He’s smart, he’s fast, and he can play soccer.  He reminds me of Benny (Olsen) when he came out of college.  Justin has those rare qualities in a player – speed and he’s intense.  Even though he’s small, he has a very big heart.”

Who else has impressed you out of the new players?

Matt Nickell is at a very good point compared to last year.  He did a lot of work in the off-season and came to this camp knowing he needs to earn it.  He’s fighting for it, and I’m impressed with that.”

“The other rookies . . . I’m very happy with Devon McTavish.  I think Devon is a smart player.  Rod Dyachenko has good qualities, but he’s pretty young.  You can see that he can play good soccer, but we just need to bring out all his qualities, not just one or two.  Kenny Bertz is a big presence in our defense.  I think his foot work needs to be better, but he’s a competitor and I like those kind of guys.  Stephen deRoux is another guy that has made a lot of progress, but he still needs to be consistent.  His athleticism is very good, but he needs to keep playing simple.  Andy Metcalf, we picked him in the supplemental draft, is a pretty big surprise.  He’s a fighter and he has a nose for the goal.  I’m impressed with the whole group.  Now, as I said, we have to work to the next step.”

You did not have any major injuries in the preseason, but some of the younger players fighting for spots picked up knocks.  How important is it for you as a coach to see how they react to this?

“Injuries happen.  You have to come back from injuries as soon as you can.  If the players want to play on this team, they have to get healthy and be responsible staying healthy.  Everything, every little thing, is important.”

“As soon as they come back we’re going to give them another chance to show their qualities to fight for, or win, their position.  At the end of the day we reward those kind of guys.  If they show commitment to the team, we show commitment to them.”

You said before that Spain is where you will work on tactics.  Are you going to go to Spain and try different formations or tactics?

“Don’t get me wrong, where this comes from.  We all believe in something.  We will create something and it works.  The players always are changing positions, changing rotations, except for mainly the principals.”

“For me the most important things are how we are going to rotate, how we are going to cover for each other, and staying organized and compact.  Like today, Josh Gros was withdrawn when the ball was back.  Then Moose was back when the ball was on the other side.  Either way it would be a 4-4-2.”

“It’s ‘Total Football’, but for you guys to understand you can’t say, ‘This is how they are going to play.’  I want to use 120×75 yards, the whole space.  My guys are going to be able to play that whole box.  That’s why we have about seventy percent possession in every single game.  We don’t want to lose the ball, or kick the ball away and run.  We want to be creative enough to make the opposition guess what we are going to do in the next couple of moments.”

“We have a lot of creative players.  During a rotation on the field, the whole flow of the game can quickly change.  For me it is important to have those creative players, see how it develops, and see how it will go offensively.  Not only offensively because defensive is also important to me.”

“I’ve been considering many things.  But, like I said, we have to be careful which elements we add to any system we put together.  The chemistry and personnel are important in making the final decision.”

With the best goals-against-average in team history, and the highest scoring team in the MLS regular season last year, how do you make improvements?

“Winning more games.  Like I told you guys, we lost six home games, including the playoffs.  We lost five road games, and in those games I thought we shouldn’t have lost four of them.  And I don’t accept losing home games.  We have great fans.  They come to watch the team be successful.”

“How are we going to improve?  In 2004 we had problems winning away games, but we got better.  It is mental.  Look at Real Madrid or Arsenal or Barcelona.  They are always going in wanting to win everything possible.  They want to win every possible championship or trophy.  That’s how we have to go into this season.”

How hard will it be to integrate the National Team players into the squad?

“It going to create some competition.  The guys want to show that the call up to the National Team wasn’t just something they don’t deserve.  If they want to keep getting called up to the National Team they will fight to improve, fight to win a position.  And they have to be a starter (for their club teams).”

“You know I’m not going to take anything for granted and just give a spot to a National Team player.  The most important thing is that each player must know what their roles are on the team.  With the National Team they need to know how they are going to help their team, either as a sub or as a starter.  I expect the same for this team, especially for those players because they are role models for the other players.  I expect they will be proud of what they have done.  They want to continue to show that they deserve to be part of the National Team.”

What were some of the negatives coming out of the camp?

“I wasn’t happy . . . well, maybe not happy isn’t the right word.  Sometimes there are a lot of little things.  We had some little injuries.  I think some of my players they took the easy way out after being in practice for two hours and they hit the wall.”

“I played this game for so many years, I can see that.  We had a discussion about that and I think they see my point.  Except that, the first two or three weeks it’s been very competitive.”

“The second camp is always the most difficult camp.  With the first camp you’re just coming in from the off-season and you’re excited to get back to practice.  The second camp is the most difficult because you have to keep your consistency.  The third camp is easy because the season is so close.  The second is important to me because I can learn who I can trust, and how they are going to develop, and how we have to work with them.”

“We’re going to take twenty-four players to Spain.  We have to make the decision who is going to stay and who is going with us.  I think the guys who are going to Spain are the most deserving.”

Even though it is only preseason, underneath everything is wanting to win everything; wanting to uphold DC United tradition.  How important are the results in Spain?

“We don’t have to prove anything, we just want show that we belong in this soccer world.  It was the same as when we played the internationals in DC – playing Chelsea, Municipal from Guatemala.  Of course we’ll have big games in playoffs, in championships, Open Cup Finals.  This helps prepare the players for big games, big crowds, different environments.”

“Last year we went to Chile with only a little experience with this – fans screaming at you.  Every experience will help our young players and the guys really enjoy being in that kind of environment.  Guys like Christian love to play when the stadium is packed and the crowd is going crazy.  It is going to help us in the long term.”

This is your third preseason.  What have you learned from these ten days?

“I learned to be tough again.  That’s what I learned.  I think there were times last year when tried to let it go for the sake of the team.  I think they wanted me to understand them.  But, I think I’m going to go back to be as I was in 2004.  I’m going to be the same person I was.  That’s the person I am.  That’s the passion in my blood about this game.  I’m not going to tolerate anything other than winning."

Practice Notes And Quotes: Wilson, Simms, Prideaux

After the loss to Real Salt Lake, John Dyson had a chance to talk with John Wilson, Clyde Simms and Brandon Prideaux to discuss their preseason preparations and their goals for the season.

John Wilson

How is your preseason going to this point?

“It’s going pretty well.  Today we had a hiccup with the loss to Salt Lake.  We’re getting fit.  And we’re getting to know each other better, with the new guys.  So, it’s going good.”

What are the differences between you coming in mid-season last year and coming in at the start of this season?

“I think the differences are knowing the team, knowing the guys, knowing the system and style we play.  Also, knowing what the guys’ strengths are.  One difference is that now that I know the guys, and they know me, I can be a bit more vocal.  Last year I was feeling my way out.  The biggest difference is that I’m much more comfortable.  I’m in DC and more settled in now.”

The coaches said that the loss in the playoffs largely came from mental fatigue due to the long season.  With knowledge behind you, how are you preparing yourself mentally this season to ensure that does not happen again?

“I know you probably hear this all the time, but every game you’ve got to come out to play.  They also say in every sport that the playoffs are a different season.  It doesn’t matter how you get to the playoffs, you can be last or first, but we’ve got to realize that everything we did before that playoff is out the window.  Now it’s about the present.”

“I think we just came out a little flat in that game.  But, you learn and hope that it doesn’t happen again.”

You said that there was a hiccup in today’s game.  What was that hiccup?  Was it simple fatigue from the preseason workouts?

“That was part of it.  That’s also part of the mental side of it – you’ve got to find a way.  We didn’t do that today.  It is better that it happened today and not later.  We’ll see them again, and this gives us something to look forward to. They’re a little bit better team than they were last year, and they’ve been in training for a little while.  I think there were some tired legs, but we’ve still got to find a way to at least find a way to grind those games out and get a result.  We’ll learn from that.”

Has Coach Nowak given you any definition on your play for this season?  Will it be as a left back or left wing?

“No, so far it’s just been in the back.  I’m in the back and trying to get forward when I can.  That’s been about it.  I think defensively, and that’s the first thing, the most important.  For the most part it’s been like last year.  I haven’t been in the midfield too much, but a lot times I end up switching with Josh Gros in a game if I make a run up.  He’s just letting me go out there and play.”

You were part of a defense that had the best goals-against-average in team history.  How do you improve on that this year?

“As a unit?  I think as a unit you’ve just got to go out and defend as a unit.  The forwards, back to the midfielders, back to the defense everybody must have that mentality.  That’s going to help us reach the same goal as last year.  They always say, ‘If they don’t score, then they can’t win’.  As a defender, I’m always very happy my forwards are making it predictable by marking hard on their defenders.  Then it helps us get tight on their forwards.  It also is a good opportunity to put pressure on them, getting chances for a turnover, I think that’s one of the things we do well.”

“When I first got here I was amazed how much when balls turned over, especially at RFK, we attacked like bandits.  We play three in the back and guys are still going forward.  A lot of that starts with the pressure, pressure at the top.”

What are your personal goals for the year?

“My personal goals for the year I would say are to be more consistent and more vocal in the back.  More consistent day in and day out in training and out of the field.”

Clyde Simms

How is preseason going for you to this point?

“It’s tough.  It’s been a tough little over a week now in Florida.  In DC we were going once a day, which is a lot easier.  It’s been tough.”

“I think the guys have been doing a pretty good job with it.  We’ve had some injuries, but we’re staying healthy for the most part.”

Last year you came in and had sort of a dream season with the National Team call up, then being brought in by DC United.  You could say that you were floating on a cloud for much of last year.  How is it different now that you are a regular?

“It is definitely different.  I know that last year I was more just happy just being here.  This offseason I thought a lot about wanting to make the best career out of soccer that I can.  I guess my thoughts going into training and games has been different already starting this year.  I’m concentrating on things that I can do better.  I go into training day in and day out trying to improve on things I need to.”

This team last year you were in the National Team camp and Brian Carroll was here.  This year the roles are reversed.  You are both fighting for a starting position, probably at the defensive/holding midfield position.  How does that make you feel?

“I think it’s great.  I’ve said it before that I’d rather be in this situation than being a regular starter that didn’t have anyone challenging me.  I’d definitely rather be in this situation, which will make me a better player, and to take advantage of the opportunities that I do get.  But, I’m very happy for Brian and I hope he does well with the National Team.”

You were part of a defensive unit that had the best goals-against-average in team history.  How do you keep that going?

“One of the things we have is pretty much everyone is back defensively.  So, the more games we play the chemistry is going to get better and better.  I think guys like Brandon (Prideaux) and Bryan (Namoff) with the talk they provide, especially with guys like me in front of them, because they see the entire field, that helps a ton.  The more we play together the less talking they will have to do and it should just come together.  I think it will be better this year.”

What are your personal goals for this year?

“I guess to be a mainstay in the lineup.  I want to eventually be a player that when somebody thinks of DC United they think of my name.”

Brandon Prideaux

How is preseason going for you to this point?

“Pretty good.  I was banged up a little bit, but I’m back in the swing of things.

As a veteran, what can you tell me about how the team is progressing?

“To be honest it feels about the same as most of them.  We’re at the beginning right now, and we’re working hard to get fit.  That’s how it goes for the first few weeks of training camp – you’re just working hard, trying to avoid getting injured, trying to get your touch back, and trying to sharpen up.  I’d say in a lot of ways it’s very similar.”

You did get a minor knock down here.  Even if it was only four days does that set you back at all or somehow mess up your preseason routine?

“It’ll take me a few days to get back into the swing of things, for sure.  Long term will it affect me?  I don’t think so.  Like you said, I’ve done this for a while now so I know what I need to work on and what I need to improve.  Everyday I’m striving to do that.”

With the way the season ended last year, how are you as a team leader going to make sure the team does not suffer through that again?

“Every year is different  The first thing we have to do is forget about last year.  Of course, we need to take some things from that and learn from it.  But, last year was last year.  We just need to focus on the new year, and go out everyday and train hard, play well, play smart.”

“One thing we do need to improve are the mistakes, the mental errors.  I look back on last season and times we just made silly mistakes.  We’ve got a good group of players that work hard and have good team chemistry.  All those things are in place for us to be a good team.  So, if we just can improve not making mistakes. I think we’ll do well.”

How do you improve on the best goals-against-average in the team’s history?

“Like I said, we did play well statistically, but we still  . . . If I look at games where we gave goals away.  It was like, ‘Man that was stupid!’  So, you can always improve.  It’s not like we were the best team ever in goals-against.  So, we can improve.”

What are your thoughts on today’s game against Real Salt Lake?

“It looked like we weren’t in sync.  A lot of it had to do with keeping possession of the ball and playing the ball out of the back.  I think we can improve on that.  It’s early and some guys aren’t sharp, like I mentioned, fatigue and that whole thing probably played into it a little bit.  You never want to make excuses.  We just weren’t good enough.”

One thing I noticed about the game is that it was rough.  Did you feel that something was missing from the team in today’s game?

“I thought we were getting kicked a little bit.  It is a physical game.  When a team is kicking you a little bit you do kind of kick back.  Not to hurt anybody or anything like that.  But, it is a physical game.  If one team is playing physical you’ve got to match that.  Yeah, I was trying to do that a little bit.”

What are your personal goals for the year?

“I guess the first thing is . . . . staying healthy is the biggest thing.  I don’t have anything like being an All-Star or anything like that.  That goes without saying.  Of course I want to do all that. . . . “

Score a goal?

“Yeah, I’d love to score a goal.  I think the main thing is to get more consistent everyday.”

United Defeat Kansas City, 2-1 In 120 Minute Exhibition

Jaime Moreno and rookie Rod Dyachenko scored goals for DC United as they defeated Kansas City 2-1 in a 120 minute preseason exhibition in Bradenton.

United will train once more in Bradenton tomorrow before returning to Washington, DC. They won’t be there long, though, as they leave for a training stint in Spain Friday.

John Dyson’s notes follow:

1st 30 minutes

G – Rimando

D – Prideaux, Erpen, Wilson

DM – Simms

M – Moose, Adu, Gros

AM – C.Gomez

F – Filomeno, Moreno

1 – DC kicks off moving left to right and immediately pushes down into the attack.  Burciaga stands up Moose on a 1v1 challenge, but the rebound sticks to Moose’s feet and he scoots around with a step over move.  His cross is on target in the box, but Shavar Thomas is able to out leap Filomeno, and the ball is cleared.

2 – KC counters with a long ball over the top.  Arnaud and Rimando race to a 50/50 ball outside the box, and Rimando gets there first for a clearance.  KC manages to control the ball at midfield and finds space on DC’s left.  Wilson goes in hard with a tackle and gets a yellow card.

5 – Filomeno called for his second questionable off sides.  Both times he appeared to have beaten the trap.

6 – Third off sides called against DC, this one against Moreno.  Again questionable.  Three off sides, three fouls already called against DC.

9 – Long over the top ball by Rimando.  Filomeno traps, but his legs are cut out from him 30 yards out from goal.  On the free kick Gomez hits the wall, and the ball goes out for a corner.  The ensuing corner comes to nothing.

11 – Moose dribbles down right flank and gets off an excellent cross to the top of the box to Filomeno.  Filomeno dummies and let the ball through to the far side of the top of the box for Moreno.  Moreno gathers it in, cuts back to the middle of the box for space, fires on goal.  The ball deflects off Garcia’s out-stretched foot, but it isn’t enough as the ball sails into the far post upper 90 past a diving Oshoniyi.  GOAL DC 1-0.

14 – DC tries several forays down the left with no luck.  Likewise, DC goes down the right, but KC’s defense stiffens.

18 – For the most part DC is winning the pressure forward game, forcing KC to resort to several long balls.

21 – Burciaga anticipates play well in midfield and wins the ball off Moose’s foot.  He dips it forward to a charging Seely, but it ends in a weak shot.  

24 – KC with more of the play in DC’s half.  Moose makes a poor tackle in a dangerous position just outside of the box, to the right of center.  Rimando is forced to make an excellent diving save to keep the ball out of the net, and the ball is cleared.

28 – Arnaud finds a lane through the box on goal.  Rimando commits and Arnaud slips the ball to Seely for an easy tap in, but Rimando appears out of nowhere and forces an errant shot by Seely.  An outstanding series by Rimando!

30 – Erpen goes long over the top and finds Filomeno in a 1v1 with Garcia.  Filomeno tries to cut back, gets some space and shoots.  Oshoniyi stops, but the rebound bounces free in the box.  Gros charges full speed, but is short-stepped by the ball and is unable to get an effective shot off, which sailed high over the ball.

2nd 30 minutes – same lineup

31 – KC kick off and Filomeno charges immediately with a poorly timed tackle.  Yellow card.

34 – Moreno in attacking right corner drops the ball back to Moose.  Moose lets one fly to the far post, but it is cleared out for a corner.  Off the corner KC gets starts a counter.  Wilson misjudges a bounce and slips allowing an open 2v1 against Erpen.  Erpen manages to slow down the KC attack just enough to let Wilson get back in support.  KC’s cross is off target.

36 – A nice through ball by KC out of midfield gets behind Wilson into DC’s left defensive corner.  Simms slides out of his position and races down threat, pressuring just enough at the last second to force a bad cross into the box.  

39 – A very questionable call on Erpen deep in DC’s defensive third – looked like shoulder to shoulder contact (that observation from a couple well known college coaches sitting next to me).  KC totally flubs outstanding free kick opportunity by blasting it into the wall.

41 – Burciaga is forced to commit a professional foul as Moose gets a step on his way to the goal.  Adu takes the free kick, is on target, but it is punched out by Oshoniyi.  Wilson collects the ball and comes down the left side adding to the pressure.  His cross into the box is knocked out for a corner.

46 – Gros shows well on a give and go with Wilson on the left.  He races deep into KC’s defensive third.  KC manages to recover, but again needs a foul to stop the threat.  DC’s free kick is cleared.

48 – KC now counts and finds space down DC’s left flank.  The cross through the box past Erpen.  Seely is open, but unable to effectively control the ball on the far side of the box.  Rimando aggressively comes out and dives on the rabbit ball.

50 – Perkins in for Rimando.

54 – Adu gets a yellow for persistent infringement.

60 – Both sides continue to battle for the ball in midfield with no clear advantage through the end of the period.  Each team attempts both flanks and long balls over the top, but still no answer as each defensive unit clamps down on its territory.

3rd Period

GK – Perkins

D – Handy, Bertz, McTavish

M – Van Sicklen, J.Carroll, Kuykendall, DeRoux

AM – Dyachenko

F – Metcalf, Walker

63 Van Sicklen springs loose on the flank.  And pushes it forward to Carroll deep in KC’s defensive third. His cross finds Walker in the box.  Walker controls and slips it forward to a charging Van Sicklen going on goal.  Van Sicklen is cut down for a penalty.  Dyachenko steps up and slams the ball into the side netting on the PK – GOAL DC 2-0

66 – D’ko cuts down KC in midfield for a yellow card.

68 – DC really controlling 2/3rds of field with outstanding team defense and decent ball control.  No one player dominating latter part, but the young players are showing well and supporting each other effectively.

71 – D’ko tackle from behind.  He is sent back to bench with second yellow card.

75 – By “gentlemen’s agreement” between coaches Pablo Gomez is allowed to come on as a substitute for D’ko.

79 – deRoux is getting more involved in the game as he makes a dangerous run down his flank.  His threat is enough to warrant a stiff tackle by KC just outside their box for a DC free kick.  The free kick is blocked out of danger.

80 – KC is now gaining more success and possession.  The find space down DC’s left flank against deRoux and McTavish.  However the final pass is lacking.  

90 – Again, both sides settle down to equal play throughout the remainder of the quarter.  KC has some advantage going against DC’s left – McTavish a natural right-sided player.  Kuykendall and Carroll both see danger and slide over for more support, which seems to be the answer.

4th Period

91 – Webber in for Perkins.

92 – McTavish, deRoux, and Metcalf work short game well moving up left side.  Metcalf races to baseline and gets a cross off to P.Gomez at the top of the box.  Nice work by KC defender snuffs danger as P.Gomez lines up shot.

94 – KC showing much better control of midfield across left, center, and right.  They are able to force DC back on their heels for several threats.

100 – Again KC finds space in center midfield and charges through to box.  Here looks to be some confusion between J.Carroll, Kuykendall, and Bertz.  However, in this case, Bertz stops threat with good individual effort on the tackle, recovery, and clearance.

104 – KC comes through midfield on quick build up.  J.Carroll slips on challenge and KC player able to go in unabated.  McTavish slides over to cover attack leaving John Minagawa-Webster(?) unmarked on flank.  Webster receives ball and hits a perfectly placed ball to far corner.  GOAL KC 2-1

109 – Again Webster cuts in out of DC’s left flank.  He hits a hard rising shot that barely goes high for a corner.

113 – Beautiful save by Webber touching a wicked shot out of the upper 90 for a corner kick.  KC now definitely in control of the majority of play, but still can’t find final pass.

117 – P.Gomez with some excellent individual effort at midfield wins control of the ball.  He flies forward and lifts the ball forward to Van Sicklen in the corner.  His ensuing cross is well cutout by Helmer(?).  Nice play on both sides of the ball by teams.

119 – P.Gomez sends through a nice lead pass to Kuykendall.  Kuykendall sees Walker streaking forwards and tries to lead him, but it is a touch too much and Helmer beats Walker to the ball at the top of the box.


Both team’s defense were extremely good for most of the game.  KC negated DC’s midfield by playing long ball, and DC’s pressure forward didn’t give enough time for KC to have effectie set ups.  On the other hand, KC’s defense managed to shut down DC whenever hey approached the final third.  Although clearly a team effort, you’ve got to give MoM honors to Erpen for leading the defense.  Moose looked good again with some of his attacks against an experienced player in Burciaga.  The offensive pressure by Gomez-Adu-Moreno was enough to keep KC off balanced and on their heels.  For the short amount of time Dyachenko was in the game, he clearly created problems for KC with his size and physical play.  The second yellow probably wouldn’t have been pulled if the referee realized that it ws the same player as a couple of minutes prior – the KC players had to point out the fact that it was a second yellow.  I thought several of the rookies showed that preseason was almost over, and they simply wanted to get on the plane.  Not that they were just going through the motions, but they were getting burned out and needed to sleep in their own beds.  Although it was reserves against reserves, clearly Minagawa-Webster was MoM for KC.

Practice Notes And Quotes: Tobar, Simpson, Rimando And Perkins

The new ball MLS is using in 2006 is already giving the goalkeepers difficulty, says DC United equipment manager Francisco Tobar. Besides Tobar, John Dyson had a chance to talk with assistant coach Mark Simpson and goalkeepers Nick Rimando and Troy Perkins.

For Simpson, Jaime Moreno, John Wilson and Clyde Simms are standing out early on.

On the battle to start at goalkeeper Rimando says the decision to be a starter "will be up to me, not to the coaches," adding that "if I go out and play well, I’m going to make it easy on [the coaches] to decide who will start." Meanwhile, Perkins is hoping to use his offseason experience at Everton to overtake Rimando as number one.

Francisco Tobar – Equipment Manager

What are your thoughts on the new ball MLS will be using this season?

“It does take off.  It’s a lighter ball.  The goalkeepers are having a difficult time adjusting to it.”

“I think some of our (field players) like it.  They can definitely hit it harder, faster, and longer.  But some of them are having a harder time because they can’t quite get used to it – it’s a bit bouncy.  But, most of the guys like it.”

“It’s taken us an adjustment period to get used to it.  We’ve been playing with it since we got to Bradenton, so it’s been five or six days and the guys are still getting used to it.”

“The main issue, as you noticed yesterday, when we do shooting drills it takes off.  We’re still finding out when you hit it, and you hit it a certain way, the ball does certain things.  When we got the Puma ball last year it took time to figure out.  Their reaction time has to be a little better, a little quicker and faster.  Once the ball is hit it moves.  When it doesn’t rotate, it doesn’t move straight.  It’s tough.” 

Mark Simpson

How is the team looking thus far into preseason?

“It’s good.  I think everybody came in with a pretty good base of fitness.  We’re still missing our National Team guys.  We’ve got a lot of new faces in.  Obviously we’re missing Dema (Kovalenko) from last year.  But, we’ve picked up some people to fill specific holes.  So, I think right now we’re just trying to push them to get them fit, not really worried about results.  We’re trying to keep guys healthy and strong, and get ready for our trip to Spain.” 

What specific areas have stood out as being ahead of the preseason training game or areas where they have surprised the coaches?

“I think it’s right on par.  Some guys are now starting to hit the wall.  We want to see what that wall is.  We want to push them to almost the point of breaking them a little bit because we want to see what their tolerances are.  So, some of the young guys are starting to peter out a little bit.  That’s all you can do, push them physically and try to get them as fit as quick as possible, within reason.”

“I think Jaime (Moreno) looks strong again.  John Wilson has looked really good in camp – he’s had his really good days.  Clyde (Simms) has been really steady back there.  Those are the three guys that have stood out for me.” 

Kevin Payne and Coach Nowak stated that one of the biggest challenges will be to keep a consistent, focused mentality throughout the season.  What are the challenges you are facing, as a coach, in bringing that about?

“I think because we were in all those competitions, and we didn’t get results, I think that is what shot us mentally at the end of last season.  But this is a brand new season.  Everybody comes in refreshed and hungry.  We know that if we’re in those situations again, where we’re in those top quality tournaments, things are going to be different, that the results are going to be different.  So, everybody is I think that everybody has come in mentally stronger knowing what could have been.  So now we’re trying to get back into those tournaments to get better results.” 

It seems over the last couple of years one of the biggest off-season speculations is whether or not there is a goalkeeper controversy.  What are your thoughts on that?

“To me there’s really not a controversy.  We have two quality goalkeepers in Nick and Troy, and a third in Webber.  We’ll continue to evaluate our team.”

“At any point in time you’re trying to make your team better, no matter what you do.  We’re going to try to find someone, between those three, or anyone else for that matter; we’re going to try to find the best for that position.”

“One thing going through the season last year, it was our best season ever for goals-against.  I think the disappointing thing for the team was we just didn’t get enough big games out of key people, whether it was our goalkeepers or other players on the field.  That’s what our stance is in terms of  . . . . I don’t really call it a goalkeeper controversy.  We’re just trying to evaluate at this time and have the best team on the field at the start of the season.” 

How will you improve on the best goals against average in team history this season?

“Obviously it’s not just the goalkeeper, it a team defensive issue, and it starts with the guys pressuring up to and making things predictable.  And it is not allowing ourselves to get broken down through the middle, not allowing ourselves getting stretched out.  When the ball does get behind us, can we mark up in those positions, and can the goalkeeper make a save and win a game for us.  All those intangibles go into team defending.  It’s not just finding the best defender or best goalkeeper to keep the ball out of the net.” 

What are your thoughts on the different ball being used this season?

“It’s different.  I think the Puma ball was heavier.  This is definitely a lighter ball.  I don’t think it takes spin as well as the other ball.  The other ball if you hit it one way, and you wanted it to go one way it would.  This ball you can hit it one way and it might not go that way for you.  It’s definitely a different ball. It’s got less resistance going through the air, therefore if it doesn’t have a lot of spin on it, it can knuckle all over the place.”

“I think it’s going to be difficult not only for goalkeepers, if it’s knuckling all over the place, it’s going to be tougher to trap, and tougher to pass.  I don’t think it’s necessarily good that you have an inconsistent ball flying through the air all the time.” 

What should fans look for through preseason to know that this team is on track for the MLS regular season?

“Going back to last year, we put a lot of guys in situations where they played a lot of minutes.  This year we’re looking to have a deeper team where if a guy is fatigued we’re not going to bat an eyelash at putting the next guy in because we’re not going to lose anything on the field.  We’re looking at having a real deep team this year, not just a first team and a reserve team.  We’re looking at having 28 guys who can step on our first team field at any time.  I think that’s what we’re looking for.  It’s just the consistency of all 28 guys on the field at any one time.” 

Nick Rimando

How is preseason going for you?

“I feel healthy.  I’ve been making all the fitness tests, so I feel fit.  Here it’s a little easier to play because there’s no snow on the ground, so you know when we get our running shoes on your feet aren’t going to get wet.  Here you know you’re going to run, get fit, and get murdered, but that’s what pre-season is all about.  We’re going to find out who is ready for the regular season.  I feel good and ready to go.” 

Being a veteran you have better insight, how does the team look coming into the preseason?

“There are good and parts.  We’re very young.  We do have some veterans, but we have a lot of new faces, and some faces who aren’t coming back.  It’s not going to be the prettiest in the beginning, but that’s what pre-season is for, to sharpen edges and get as good as we can, and getting on the same page.  Peter has been doing that little by little.  By the end of this long season we’ll be alright.” 

It seems that every preseason it there seems to be talk about a goalkeeper controversy.  What are your thoughts on that?

“That’s what the reporters need to talk about.  I don’t think about Troy, I think about myself.  If reporters what to talk about it to get things started, that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  I’m concentrating on myself, going out there everyday and trying to perform to the best of my ability.  I think the decision is up to me, not up to the coaches.  If I go out there and play well I’m going to make it easy on them.  I think Peter and Mark have made it clear that everyone is fighting for a position.  Coming into this preseason I wanted to be fit and know that if I’m in that first game I am prepared.” 

Kevin Payne and Peter Nowak mentioned that the team’s letdown at the end of the year was because of mental fatigue.  How are you approaching this season differently mentally?

“It’s still all in the back of our heads, the worst lost in post season at RFK.  Especially in front of our fans, it took a toll on me personally because I did think we were good enough to go further.  To get beat like that at home was something big and it’s definitely in the back of my mind.  When I step on the field that’s going to be in the back of my mind and know that we have a history and we don’t lose at home in front of our fans like that.  I think a lot of the guys know that and can’t wait to play them again.” 

What are your personal goals for this season?

“Again, to start the season in goal.  I guess to start off with a win.  I don’t want to look past the first game because if you look past that there could be some troubles.  Going in I want to be in that first game and I want to win that game.  That’s all I’m asking for right now.  Also, to be healthy and ready to give the team whatever I have to offer.” 

Troy Perkins

How is the preseason going for you in general?

“I’m really enjoying it this year.  There’s a lot more confidence and I feel a lot more comfortable than I have in the past.  The two weeks I spent in England helped me a lot mentally getting ready to come here for two weeks.” 

Other than the mental preparation, how else did your experience in England (Everton) help you?

“Overall, there threw me in the fire right from the get-go.  They let me train with the first team everyday.  Chris Woods, the goalkeeper coach there, is an incredible guy.  He stayed after everyday working me twice a day.  The goalkeepers there were very receptive of me helping me with little things in the game that you might not get here just because of the lack of experience of the players.  Just sitting around with them (and) talking about situational stuff really helped a lot.” 

Being a veteran, how does the team look going into preseason?

“We actually talked about this the other day.  We’re pretty deep.  We’re a very young team, but we have a lot of talent and work ethic in our young players that are in their first or second year.  Last year the reserve league helped out tremendously as far as developing players and getting them experience.  You can start to see that in those players.  I think overall, we look good and now we just need to gel the team and get a rhythm.” 

Every year about this time there is talk about a goalkeeper controversy between you and Nick Rimando.  What are your thoughts on that subject?

“It makes you better.  As professionals this is what you’re going to find no matter where you go.  Any club in the world the top spot is always battled for.  It makes you better physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Last year was up and down.  I didn’t really get a chance to step in and play.  It was tough.  I sat down with Mark (Simpson) before we came down here and that’s what he said, ‘You’ve got to learn from everything.’  It makes you a better person and a better player.  It’s going to make you the best you can be.” 

How are you approaching this season mentally battling against the team’s performance in the post season and trying to win the starting goalkeeping job?

“It’s the little things like picking up gear to making sure that you’re responsible for your own stuff.  It all starts there.  So, when you step on the field, following the runner, coordinating where you’re supposed to be all falls into place and you’re not worried about it, it takes place on it’s own.  That’s what it’s really about from my end.  I’ve always believed if you take care of the little things on and off the field in training, then the games are the easy part.” 

What are your personal goals for this season?

“Personally, you want to be on the field, on the field every game.  Obviously last year we won the Reserve League, and if I don’t get a chance to be the number one, I want to do that again.  I also want to win another cup.  I told Mark that this year I want to make it back to the championship and I want to be on the field for that.”

Cunningham Hat Trick Sinks United, 3-1

Jeff Cunningham had a hat trick for Real Salt Lake as they defeated DC United 3-1 at Bradenton on Friday. Christian Gomez scored United’s lone goal on a free kick.

Following are John Dyson’s observations:

1st Half Lineup

4-4-2  Diamond

GK – Perkins

D – McTavish, Bertz, Erpen, Wilson

DM – Simms

M – Gros, Adu

AM – Gomez

F – Filomeno, Moreno

1 – Wilson overlaps down the sideline and crosses to Moreno in the middle of the box.  Moreno is able to control and fires on goal, but it sail over the bar.

2 – Off a DC throw in, Adu finds space down the left flank and nails a cross to the far post.  Filomeno(?) in a crowd gathers it in, but is unable to control it long enough to get a shot off.

5 – Atiba(?) nasty tackle on Simms.

7 – Again Adu rushes down his flank, his speed on the ball (the Freddy Effect), is already forcing RSL’s midfielder to defensively.  Adu pushes the ball forward to Filomeno running on a diagonal across the box to the near post.  He is challenged by Chris Brown, but shoulders off defender.  Finally, Brown is forced to commit a professional foul at the end line, just outside the box to stop Filomeno from turning the corner.  The ensuing free kick is blocked down for no effect.

10 – A long ball over DC’s midfield rolls into DC’s right corner.  Erpen slides over to cover on Cunningham.  Cunningham dances but is unable to find space, and eventually dribbles out of bounds.  Support nicely done by McTavish cutting down passing lanes out of corner.

13Atiba gets wide on DC’s left and receives long outlet from RSL’s defensive end.  He uses a speed move to touch to the end line, which gives him enough space to fling a cross into the box.  Cunningham is on the receiving end on far side of the box, and one-times it back to the opposite post.  GOAL RSL 0-1

ObservationGoY candidate all around.  But, questions to be asked:  Where was the up field pressure to force a bad outlet?  Why did Wilson allow space?  Who was marking Cunningham?

14 – Nearly identical play as the goal, as Atiba again finds space against Wilson.  This time the cross goes lacking.

16 – DC pushes McTavish up to right wing, Gros to left wing, Adu plays more centrally.  Looks more like a 3-5-2.

18Moreno hacked down just outside the box – the wind is gusting up to 5mph and the nudge obviously disrupted his attack!  Gomez and Adu over ball.  OH, GOALLAAAZZOOOO.  Perfectly placed free kick from Gomez into the upper 90 – untouchable.  GOAL DC 1-1.

ObservationsThere’s something to be said about experienced players.

22 – Filomeno causing some troubles with his control of the ball.  He manages to hold and spin with a nice looking, but largely ineffective shot from about 25 yards out.

23 – Adu opens a quick counter out of DC’s defense with a 50 yard scamper.  He touches forward to McTavish running on the far side unmarked.  RSL GK Nolly(?) is able to block the shot by McTavish.

27Gros misplays a ball on the right flank.  Cunningham pounces and dribbles in on the box.  Wilson confronts him, but Cunningham slips farther to Wilson’s left, stops, drills a shot on goal.  Although Perkins is following play, it looks like the shot was screened and he is leaning the wrong way.  The ball cuts back to the far post, Perkins gets his hands to it, but it slips in for a goal.  GOAL RSL 1-2.

ObservationsNice fields, but it looked like a possible bad hop that started the play.  Cunningham attack and Wilson stood him up on the original foray.  As Cunningham cut to Wilson left looking for space, he was able to get enough to get a shot off.  Perkins was either leaning the wrong way, or the new ball went funky – read the Francisco Tobar and Mark Simpson Q&A’s.

30-35 – RSL now controlling most of flow through midfield.  Some blunted attacks, but DC is unable to effectively clear their zone.  A few counters are stopped in mid third of the field.

37Cunningham receives ball about 25 yards out.  He pushes forward and double steps Simms for space.  He drives on goal, Perkins gets a hand to it, but it isn’t enough.  GOAL RSL 1-3.

39 – Finally DC gets attack into gear again.  Gomez and Adu playing nice short game from midfield into attacking third.  Moreno finds lane to run into and Gomez feeds him the ball.  Moreno gathers it in steps in on goal, and is barged down with a shoulder left of center, just outside the box.  From about 20 yards out, Filomeno’s free kick is a mirror image of Gomez’ shot, but this time Nolly is able to fingertip it out for a corner.

42 – DC definitely back in control.  Most of the action in RSL end of the field.  Adu able to get down deep into RSL box and drives a shot on goal.  The ball is blocked down and rattles around and Filomeno flips it over the congestion to Gros on the far side.  Gros goes one-time on goal, but Chris Brown’s body obstructs an obvious goal.  The ball is cleared from further danger.

2nd Half

G – Rimando

D – Handy, Erpen, deRoux

DM – J.Carroll

M – Van Sicklen, Worthen

AM – Dyachenko

F – Walker, Metcalf

46 – DC pushes forward immediately after the start.  Kuykendall finds Walker with a through ball, but Walker strikes it high.

47 – Van Sicklen stops an RSL attack just outside of DC box in a dangerous position.  Rimando makes a diving punch to clear ensuing free kick for a corner.  Corner flubbed and cleared easily.

50 – D’ko touches to Metcalf, who finds Van Sicklen open on the right flank.  V.Sicklen touches around defender to end line and lifts cross to far post for a streaking Walker, but the cross is off target and Nolly is able to pull it in.

51 – Metcalf’s pressure in midfield bears fruit as he steals the ball away and charges forward.  As RSL’s close in on him he rifles a drive, but Nolly is up to the task and pushes it away.

54 – Akwari(?) crunches Worthen on a breakaway.

59 – Worthen lifts a perfect lead pass to Walker, who beats the trap with good timing.  Walker takes a crack at the lower left, and Nolly anticipates well for the save.

60 – D’ko controls through, using his body well to keep ball.  He drops the ball back to Kuykendall in support, who flips the ball diagonally to Worthen streaking down the flank. Worthen touches and shoots towards goal, but not a difficult stop by Nolly.

62 – Erpen shuts down RSL’s first real threat of the half with a well timed intervention, blocking down the shot off the final pass.  DC counters quickly with Van Sicklen on the flank, but he has no support through the center.  The attack falters.

65 – Metcalf showing well in offensive third.  Not afraid of “bodying” people for control of ball

68 – RSL finds space down DC’s right flank.  Handy does well with 1v2 situation and handles troubles without help.

72 – Walker and Worthen working well on DC left attacking side.  They work a give-and-go, which opens up RSL middle defense, but last touch is lacking, and RSL clears danger.

73 – Prideaux in for Erpen

74 – Van Sicklen uses cut back across top of the box and gets a shot off, but it deflected and cleared from danger.

76 – Pablo Gomez in for Kuykendall

79 – Off a quick throw in, Walker dribbles down side of the RSL box.  Worthen cuts in behind him finding no one covering.  Walker deftly slips the ball past the last defender to Worthen for an open shot, but the finish is left wanting.

82 – D’ko pushes forward, almost forming a 3-4-3.

85 – DC’s second half team clearly outclassing RSL’s, but unable to find the finishing touch.  RSL doing well in cluttering the box and cutting off final runs.

87 – Pablito with cheeky no-look pass finds Worthen wide.  Worthen pushes down to end line and crosses, but no one able to sky in the box.

88 – Nice counter by RSL, but again Handy clears it by himself.

In general:

RSL looks more like a real team.  Cunningham was clearly their MoM, but a strong mention for Nolly.  Atiba could cause problems with his deceptive speed – long, loping strides – but is a red card waiting to happen.

You expect more from DCUnited, even if they are the hardest working team down here – that is an obvious point – and the legs are probably getting worn out.  Most disappointing was the lack of response to the physical nature of the game.  Tough call on MoM.  Gomez’ shot was excellent.  Metcalf was impressive.  Moreno proved difficult a couple of times.  I give it to Chico and Carlos Solares for making the road-trip.

Practice Notes: Soehn Breaks Down Draw With MetroStars

DC United assistant coach Tommy Soehn gives his thoughts to John Dyson on yesterday’s DC United/MetroStars match, which ended in a 1-1 draw. Dyson also had a chance to chat with Bryan Namoff and Josh Gros, and found out what they did for Valentine’s Day.

Tommy Soehn

What are your general thoughts on the game today against the MetroStars?

“It’s always early.  We’re concentrating on fitness.  We always like to think our starting point is better than anybody else.  There were times where we controlled the ball well, but we are still early in camp.  There are a lot of things to work on.  But for this time of the year we’re pretty happy where the guys are at.”

What positives did you see coming out of the game?

“I think we exposed the flanks pretty good with ball movement.  Obviously it wasn’t consistent for long periods, but there were flashes in there.  Our fitness is also very good.”

Are there any specific players that have impressed you so far?  Are any of the rookies standing out at this moment?

“On any given day one guy stands out, and then on the next day he’s a little inconsistent.  I think that’s part of the  . . . . It’s tough on the rookies.  On some days they look good.  To say that anybody stood out, I’m not going to comment that way.  I think they all have a lot to learn yet, and a lot to grow.  But, we’re pretty pleased with what they’ve brought to the table.”

As a coaching staff how are you approaching the change in mentality to get the team back to its championship ways?

“You gear yourself every year from this point to make sure that you’re going out to play a championship game.  I don’t think our approach is different.  Throughout the year we’re going try to limit distractions.  Obviously our schedule is a little bit lighter, so we don’t have all the tournaments to go through.  Also, we have personnel changes.  I think every year we approach it the same.  You make sure you don’t make the same mistakes that you’ve made, and you fix the things that have gone wrong during the year.”

In general, the tactical philosophy of a 3-5-2, with defensive pressure through the midfield and forwards, man-marking in back is going to remain the same?

“We don’t really come into a season saying, ‘This is the way we’re going to play.’  I think the personnel decide that.  We try different things in the spring to see which works the best, and which complements the best.  Throughout the year you lose guys to injuries or to the National Team and you have to be able to adjust it.  We try to have as many options as we can.”

The defense was one bright spot last year with the lowest goals against average in team history.  How do you keep that going through this season?

“Defending doesn’t just start in the back, that’s a misconception we have.  I think defending starts with the forwards.  When the forwards are doing a good job, then everyone behind them has an easier job.”

“One of the key reasons why I thought we had a little more difficult time is that we lost some of the pressure that Eskandarian puts on the defenders.  It’s going to be great to have Esky back.  And we’ve got a couple of different options.  I think we’re really going to focus on putting their backs under pressure, and that should make everyone behind them jobs easier.”

“Guys like Bobby (Boswell) and Facundo (Erpen) have more experience now.  Namoff is still growing and getting experience.  So, we intend on being hard to play through by being organized.  That doesn’t change.  Like I said, our philosophy on how we organize and pressure is the same.  Obviously we didn’t finish that strong last year, and we don’t want to happen again.”

Offensively the team went through peaks and valleys all year long.  How do you get the consistency?

“One stat, I think when you look, is that we were the second highest scoring team in the league.  On both sides of the ball we’re doing a good job.  Would you like to be number one in all those categories?  Yes, but the most important thing is winning a championship.  We didn’t do that last year, so we have a lot of work to do this year.”

The team did not win MLS Cup, but it did finish first in the Reserve League.  What lessons were learned from that first experience?  How important were your experiences with the reserves to the overall team concept?

“We look at it as one team, whether it’s the twenty-eight guy or the first guy.  It’s our job to develop everybody.  Certain guys develop faster than others, but our philosophy is the same with the reserves.”

“We’re going out to win every game.  We’re going out to make sure we carry on the same pressure, everything.  We take it very serious.  And I take it very serious.  I think that’s why we are successful.  We demand the same from everybody.  The guys who don’t end up not coming back.  Every time they go onto the field it’s a trial.”

What can the fans expect in preseason from here on out?  What should they be looking for to know that the team is on the right track?

“I said this when Peter and I first came here, you’re always going to see an honest, hard-working team, a team that you can be proud of.  A team that you can look at and say, ‘Wow, they’re classy the way they play, the way they handle themselves.’”

“We strive for perfection.  Obviously soccer isn’t a perfect game, but we’re going to be as close as we can along the way, and continue to push guys to mature. I think some of our young guys, whether they are first year, second year, or third year players, we’re going to demand more of them.  That’s part of what league has with our salary cap.  Responsibilities become bigger for players that might not have had it the year before.”

“We feel we have a great team.  It’s our job to develop them to the next level, then the next level, and the next.  I’m excited about this year.  I think we’re deeper than ever.  The only thing that can get in our way is ourselves.”

What did you do for Valentine’s Day?

“I planned ahead, I got something before I left for a change.  Not just for the wife, but also for the kids.”

Josh Gros

How are things going for you this preseason?

“I think pretty well.  I think the team is looking pretty good.  Everybody is working hard, and so far, so good.”

This is your third season – no rookie status, no sophomore slump excuses – you are officially a “veteran”.  How is it different now?

“I think there is a lot more expected out of me as far as playing, and leading the younger guys that are coming up.  So, there are higher expectations on and off the field is the main thing.”

Last year you ended on a sour note.  Kevin Payne and Coach Nowak mentioned that there will be a new mentality to this season.  What are the changes, and how are you approaching this change in mentality?

“Basically we’re going back to the same formula that we used in 2004.  Not that we strayed too far away from it in 2005, I think we just got a little relaxed with our approach to the games and everything.  We’re back to taking everything in practice and the games as if it were the last one.”

For your personal goals, in your rookie season here in Bradenton you said you just wanted to help the team.  Last year you said you wanted to improve your game, specifically by scoring more goals and being more of an offensive threat.  What are your personal goals for this season?

“Yeah, I think my main goal is to be more of a leader on the team.  I want to score more goals than I did last year.  And just be a better leader.”

As your personal goals have expanded, the expectations on you also are higher – this year you are expected to be a starter.  Now that you are one of the “targets” to get pushed out of a starting position how does that make you feel?

“I guess I don’t approach it too differently because I’m going to be competing everyday for that spot.  It’s not mine. It was never promised to me, and it never will be.  So, I am approaching like we all have the same chance at playing.  It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been here.”

Finally, what did you do for Valentine’s Day?

“I sent a card to a nice young lady.”

Bryan Namoff

How are things going for you in this preseason?

“So far, so good.  You know, another year at good old Bradenton, Florida.  Things are going well.”

“We just came out with a result – 1-1.  Right now we’re concentrating on our fitness trying to get the rust out.  There are a lot of new faces on the team and we’re trying to build up that chemistry again.  There is still a long way until the season starts, so each and everyday is different.  Right now our main concern is fitness.  Obviously, the tactics will come afterwards.”

You picked up a knock already.  What is your condition?

“A nice little groin strain.  A preseason over-use, trying to work hard, and I just kind of picked one up.”

Both Kevin Payne and Coach Nowak stated that the season ended on a sour note and the key to this season would be to keep the right mentality all the way through.  How has that changed the approach to this pre-season?

“I think it left a sour taste in our mouths.  It’s something that we now have a mental image . . . we have that feeling still that we take into this season.  It’s something for the players from last year that we’re not going to forget going into this season, and going through the season, and getting into the playoffs.  The playoffs isn’t our goal, it’s wining the championship. That’s a main concern of our.  On some teams their focus might be, ‘OK, let’s get to the playoffs.’  We want to get to the playoffs, but our number one focus is to win the championship.”

What are your personal goals?

“My personal goal is that I want to hold up that championship trophy at the end of the year.  If I can win as many games before then that will be perfect.”

This is your sixth year.  In what ways do you feel that you have grown over those years as a player?

“I guess it’s been a roller coaster ride.  I saw success.  I’ve always had to work hard for the things that I’ve attempted to accomplish.”

“Starting off in the first year I was able to see time.  It’s hard for a rookie to come in and try break the starting lineup, and I was able to do that midway through the course of the first season.  But, then coach being fired – and I’ve seen three coach over the last six years – that have taken its toll.”

“Just keeping your confidence up from one coach to the other. . . . One coach might have different goals, different objectives.  You might not be aligned with his perspectives.  That’s one thing that I’ve had to really concentrate on doing, regardless of whether a coach likes you or not, you make him like you by playing, and being competitive day-in-and-day-out, and keeping that mental edge.  Player’s confidence can be up or down throughout the course of the year, or the course of the week even.  So, gaining that mental edge has really helped me throughout the years.”

(Tommy Soehn walks by and laughs)

“And of course, our Coach Tommy Soehn has been the key through the course of the years . . . .”

“I think that the number one thing is that number one factor.  I’ve seen what is out there.  I’ve raised a championship trophy and I know what it takes to get there.  It’s one step at a time.  And I hope that is something I can pass on to these younger players coming in.”

Although last year ended poorly, in terms of goals against average, this was the best defensive team DC United ever had in its history.  How do you improve on that this season?

“That was one positive outcome for that season, but it takes an entire team.  In order to win games we have to score goals.  At the same time we want to have as few goals go in as possible.  It comes from defense all the way up through the forwards.  If one person is off that night we need to have 10 other players supporting him, giving him confidence.”  “That’s something that is going to big throughout this season, being able to pick each other up because you’re not always going to have great games.  If you can have confidence in all your players, that will be a winning edge that makes up a championship team.”

What did you do for Valentine’s Day?

“I sent two dozen roses back out to Virginia to my girlfriend.”

Practice Notes And Quotes: Peter Nowak And Freddy Adu

Peter Nowak

After the first week of practice, how happy are you with your players?

“I think our starting point was pretty good considering the guys we have, and the guys who had surgeries during the off-season.  It looks pretty promising.”

“The rookies are still fresh blood, so it’s pretty good for us.  

“The guys came in in pretty good shape.”

“And considering Freddy (Adu) and the other National Team member it looks pretty promising for our Bradenton camp.”

How do you think Aleko has done so far?  Are you cautious with him so far?

“Why would I be cautious with him?  I think Alecko knows what his body needs and what he needs in practice.  If he’s telling me that he’s going to go full speed I expect him to go full speed.  That’s the trust we’ve created.  And it’s the right environment.”

“He needs to forget about that.  He needs to play a game with a smile on his face, scoring goals, and make sure he’s going to be one of the guys.  The past is the past.”

“Of course, we need to be careful with a couple of things.  But, I think he’s smart enough by himself.”

Last week Kevin Payne said he talked to you in the off-season about using the bench more.  Last season you had the best Reserve Team in the league, and the team specifically talked about how impressed it was with players like Kuykendahl and Nickel.  In general, do you have a plan?  What might it entail?

“Sure, I have to consider everything.  My point of view has always been do I play with my Best XI, is this the Best XI for this weekend?  Those guys will be given a little bit of confidence even if they are a little bit tired, maybe a little bit confused.  But, you’re still going to get something from them.”

“My point was always ‘This is my Best XI’.  If I change the line up then it will be, ‘Why are you doing this coach?  You don’t trust Jaime Moreno?  You don’t trust Christian Gomez?  Why are you doing this?’”

“It’s a very thin line going with either the Best XI or rotating the line up like maybe we were supposed to do last year.  I don’t know?  I always felt that, ‘This is my Best XI’.  Maybe I didn’t give guys like Clyde Simms or, at the end of the season, the Bobby (Boswell) situation, he hit the wall and everyone saw that.  Why would I keep him in the line up if we’ve lost a very important piece on the field?”

“It’s not using the bench more, but we’ve got to be careful with what we are saying.  It’s a very thin line and very delicate matter saying who is going to play or not.”

“We have another article about the guys, I think it was about Kelly Gray, when he (Dave Sarachan) said that Kelly Gray was going to be rested for a league game, but then you have reserve games.  You cannot rest players for the week.  Kelly Gray played 90 minutes in the reserve game.  Kelly then said, ‘Between me and the coach there must be some kind of misunderstanding!’”

“I don’t want to create the kind of environment where they aren’t going to trust me with my decisions over the weekend.  So, as I said, there are always going to be questions, ‘How are we going to use our line up?  How can we rotate our players?’  The most important thing is that the guys earn it in practice.  I’m not going rest a player so I can play another guy because it isn’t fair to the players.  They work very hard in the practice to get there.  If they don’t work hard in practice, and they’re not going to earn a spot, then I can think about that.”

Do you have a Best XI established?  Or, is it something as basic as a player working harder to earn that spot?

“As I said, everything is important to me.  How you behave.  How you act.  I’m not going to jump from tree to tree changing the line ups.  It’s a matter of time of how you’re going to act and how you’re going to progress.”

Jamil (Walker) was the best example last year.  Even if I gave him 10 minutes, or just 2 minutes he just kept going and going, and then he wanted more.  I want that mentality from every player.  Whoever it is going to be whether it is a National Team player or not, I expect, if he wants to be a part of this team, and he wants to see more minutes, he needs to not only come to the point of being in the line up, but also beyond it.  Everything is about being consistent in everything you’re doing.”

Are you planning on changing the captaincy this year?

“I only changed the Captain of the Rookies.  It’s going to be Bobby Boswell this year.  He’s going to take care of the rookies and the rest is going to stay as it is.”

With Freddy Adu last year, was it that you were going to start your Best XI and he had to step up his game?

“You know guys, don’t get me wrong, we care about every player.  We know what to expect.  For myself, I think in the first season the expectations were very high.  I don’t remember, but I think he started 7 or 8 games.  I don’t remember the exact number, it was something like that.  Last year he started 16 games.  So, we’re going in the right direction.  I think if he gives the team 25 starts, with 15 or 20 very good games, like he did last year with a lot of them. . . . Unfortunately last year, when he got hurt, and spent 4 weeks coming back to his old form.  So, it was a difficult time for him.  He was very consistent during that time.”

“The players around were very happy to have him in the line up.  The most important thing is that this is his third year.  He is one of us.  He needs to remember that we are for him, and he is for this team.  As I said, one guy isn’t going to win the championship.  If you have guys that are going to help you with things, and push you to the limit, not only with me because he’s sooner or later going to be tired of me pushing him all the time – ‘Why are you doing all this?  You’re pushing too hard!’ – they are going to push him to the limit, and that is more important than me saying what he needs to do.  The results are going to come sooner or later.”

“His future is bright.  Whatever comes from the National Team will come.  Everything is going to fall into place when he thinks and acts like, ‘I’m a member of this team’.  After 2004 there was a lot about Freddy, but we won as a team.  That’s the most important thing.  When you do your part you will have your share of fame and recognition.”

“I’m very happy and proud how he’s developed over the last two years.  There are things we have to work on, but that’s the same with any other player.”

In the last 2 years has Freddy defined a specific role on the team tactically?  Winger?  Attacking midfield behind the forwards?  Forward?  Do you have any ideas what his natural role is?

“I have ideas, sure.  I’m not going to share that with you guys because it’s too early in the season.”

“You guys always speculate, ‘It’s going to be this, it’s going to be that – a winger, or that.  You need to change the line up.’  I always consider what is best at the moment because you and me and this team want to have the best results.  We want to be happy how we play, the way we play, and what kind of result we produce.  You have to understand I consider everything.  I’m thinking about what is the best tactically, physically, and mentally for this team.  Every single day, trust me!  You can even ask my players!”

“I can come in with ideas, but I don’t think there is enough time during the season to change the whole system.  You can change a little piece and that could be the deciding point if you are going to win a game, or if it is going to work.  As I said, it is pretty delicate.”

“We have the pre-season, about 2 months, to work on some stuff.  Maybe we will develop something new, maybe not.  I will see how it works.  We will consider everything.”

“Nobody can guarantee any system will work.  I don’t think anybody is going to give you an answer, ‘It is better to play this way, or this way.  Or, Freddy is better as a winger; or Freddy needs to be a play-maker; or, Christian behind him; or Christian in front.’  Nobody can give you the answer right now.  We have 2 months of hard work right now.  I’m sure we’re going to come up with the right answer.”

Will the World Cup disrupt the team this year?

“No, we’ve had the routine over the last 8 years – in 1998 and 2002.  Most of our National Team players come from European teams, we’re going to miss maybe 6 or 7 guys.  It’s not going to be a really big issue.”

“In 1998 there were a lot of domestic players.  There weren’t many players playing abroad in other countries.  But now it is just different.  It’s not going to really affect our league.”

“I don’t agree with some comments like, ‘Every game is meaningless . . .. We have to stop . . . .’  It’s our job to produce and play the best way we can.  There are still a lot of things to do.  I have a couple of ideas, but I’m not going to share them with you right now.  I think that we’re going to have to sit together after the pre-season, but right now isn’t the time for that.”

Freddy Adu

How was the National Team experience?

“It was great!  I had a great time, and learned a lot.  That’s the most important thing, I learned a lot.  I just learned, pretty much all over again, and started to have fun again.  Work hard, but have fun when you play.  When I do that, I play a hell of a lot better.”

Was that the problem with the end of last season?

“It was just inconsistent.  That’s what it was.  Some games I was having fun, and some games it just wasn’t there.  I just want to maintain it.  I’m going to have something written down on my wrist, ‘Enjoy Yourself Every time.’  I’ve just got to remind myself that every time.”

What things were you able to learn in the National Team camp?

“When I first got there what I was definitely lacking was the defensive positioning.  It took me about a week to understand where to be out there defensively.  After I got that everything went downhill from there.  And I was playing much better.  I felt good.  And I felt confident when I was playing.  Now I’m able to position myself in the right spot, when my team wins the ball, and we’re off counter-attacking.  If somebody doesn’t win the ball, I put myself in a position to win the ball.”

What do you think you need to do to get back to the National Team camp?

“I just need to work hard and be a regular starter for DC.  The month of April is very important for me because I said in a couple of other interviews that Bruce (Arena) is going to be monitoring my every move.  I’m just going to work hard and keep improving.  I’m going to bring that to DC United – to play well for DC United.  If I do that, Bruce is watching and he might give me that last shot to go in and try to prove something.  Hopefully that’s the case.”

Where do you hope to fit in with DC United tactically?

“I don’t know.  Somewhere in the midfield, or even up top, it doesn’t matter to me.  Right now I’m just doing whatever I’ve got to do to be better.  When I was with the National Team Bruce put me out on the left for a lot of the training.  So I learned that position pretty well.  Hopefully, wherever DC decides to put me, just as long as I’m out there on the field, I’m willing to work to be out on the field.”

What was said in the off-season to make you feel better about your situation?

“It’s not so much things were said that made me feel better.  It just came down to the issue of miscommunications between myself and Peter.  We had that meeting at the end of the season, and we got a lot out of that meeting.  Everybody was there – my agent, my family, Kevin Payne, David Kasper, and Ivan Gazidis, from the league, was there.  It was just an issue of miscommunications.”

“Peter, when he was 15 years old, he went pro.  He was brought up in a different way than I’m being brought up.  He was trying to do whatever he could to bring me up the right way.  I guess I just didn’t see that, or respond well to that.  But, I had a meeting with Peter, and everything is cool now.  I trust the guy.  I’m willing to just work to be out on the field.”

“I’m glad to be back at DC United because this is where I want to be.  I don’t want to go anywhere else.  I get the best of both worlds playing for DC United – living at home and playing for a team, in my opinion, the best franchise in MLS.”

Was part of the problem that you expected to get more playing time than you were?

“Well, yes and that’s why I decided to join DC United for preseason.  That is the main reason to join the team for preseason.  I want to be a regular starter for DC.  I want to be there right from the start with the rest of the guys just working, doing the fitness drills, and doing everything with them.  Hopefully I do well enough to get a starting spot.  Bruce told me when I was with the National Team, ‘You know, pretty much your best shot with making a World Cup team is being a regular starter with DC.’  So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do – work hard for that.  And take it one day at a time.  And hopefully things go the right way.”

“That’s something you have to work for even the coach says ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.  It’s up to you.  It’s really up to you.  It’s not up to anybody else.  It’s up to how hard you’re willing to work out on that field.  And when you get that chance what are you going to do with that chance.  I’m ready for that.  No excuses.  You’ve got to go in and do whatever you got to, to help the team win.”

You did start 16 games out of 25 last year.  Weren’t you a regular starter last year?

“It just didn’t feel that way, I guess.  I didn’t even know I started 16 games, to be honest.  It didn’t feel that way to me.”

“This year is a whole different year.  I want to concentrate on this year, and forget about what happened last year because we’re all not happy with what happened last year – with the way we went out of the playoffs.  We want to get back and win MLS Cup this year, and we’re willing to work for it.  Everyone looks good in practice.  Everyone looks ready and excited.  I’m excited myself, so hopefully we get back there.”

This is your third year . . .

“Do you believe that?!”

You’ve got several people around you giving advice, you’re traveling back and forth to the National Team camp.  Do you ever feel stretched?

“For the first couple of seasons I did, to be honest.  Now, look at me, I’m having fun.  I’m just having fun and playing.  It’s just one of those things where now I’m not thinking about anything else, but just enjoying myself when I’m on the field.  That’s the most important thing now.  That’s what I want to do because I feel like I’m a whole different player when I’m having fun.  I’m a completely different player.  That’s where I want to be.”

Practice Quotes from Peter Nowak

After a couple of days to review Saturday’s game, do you have anything else that you saw, good or bad, about DC United’s performance?

‘As I said, we addressed at half-time that we were stretched too much, and there was too much space for DeRosario, and Landon, and the guys in the midfield. So we addressed this issue at half-time, and then they did a great job. Then there were the chances we missed from the beginning. We started to play better, play faster, close them down, and from those positives we need to get a win this game (against LA). We need to get a little bit better than that. There is still a lot of work to improve the team. I think we played fairly well, and three points are three points. You can’t complain. And maybe it’s better to win 2-1 than 5-0 or 4-1.’

Some fans are asking about why Rimando, coming off an injury, started over Warren as GK?

‘We felt that way. I told you and all my players that it’s not an easy decision to fill the eleven spots. Everyone wants to play, that I understand. But, it cannot be today is that, and tomorrow is like that. We make these decisions. This is the team and everyone is important. It’s not like, ‘Why did he play, and he didn’t play?’ It’s just that we felt this way. It’s all about winning and all about the team. It’s not about single individuals that feel, ‘I was suppose to play. Why didn’t I play?’ So, like I said, this was our decision and the rest can take care of itself.’

Over the last year a debate on where Bobby Convey should play has been going on between the fans. Have you talked to Bobby about his play on the wing and convince him that this is his natural position?

‘For players that is a natural process. The players always find a way to feel comfortable with their position which they will play for their whole life.’

‘I don’t want you guys to think of it as a dresser (with drawers). You don’t want to put them into ‘left midfield’, ‘left back’, or ‘right midfielder’. The game is so fast and the players rotate, move, and shift, with all this stuff, you cannot say, ‘This guy is the left-back. Why did he end up playing on the right wing?’ It doesn’t go that way! If we start to put the players into the dresser and say, ‘Why didn’t he play in the middle? He’s an attacking left midfielder!’ It doesn’t really matter. With all the shifting and moving Bobby Convey might play 20 minutes on the right wing. So, as I said, for the players it’s a natural process. When they’re shifting and rotating they’re going to find the best spots for themselves.’

‘Last game, when Bobby moved into the middle, Dema played out (on the wing) the first couple of minutes in the second half. We saw that Dema struggled, so we moved him back into the middle. Landon (Donovan) moved back, Dema moved back to close him down. Bobby is very good at advancing, but we needed someone who is going to win the ball. So we switched them.’

‘I just don’t want you guys to put them in the dresser. I don’t want you to say, ‘Why did he play on this side?’ It’s a natural process for the players. We still have to make it difficult for the other team, but we still have to stay compact and composed. We have to stay organized.’

Have you talked with Dema about his red card, and are you planning on doing anything extra as a way of punishment outside of what the league gives him?

‘The call was the call. After 4 minutes, with the advantage after Waibel was sent off, you don’t think the referee is going to make this call for this kind of action? Of course he’s going to do it because the intentions were bad. That’s the most important thing. I don’t think either card was right, but the intentions from Waibel and Dema were bad.’

‘When you start the season with this kind of play, and address it right away, then it’s easy for everyone else. I’d say of course I don’t like it. The team was playing very well at that moment. We had the advantage – we kept the ball, we kept it moving, and we could have scored with our chances. I’m very disappointed that things like that happened because we’ve talked about it for 3 months. I’ve spoken with him personally about it a couple of times. I addressed the issue, and sometimes he’s like that. We’re going to work on it, for sure. We’re going to meet together after the league decides what to do with him. But, our reputation cannot afford that – what people are going to say about DC United.’

When you were a player did DC United have a reputation as a dirty team?

‘No, it wasn’t a dirty team. I would say that it was always a team that was very strong at home and created a lot of action. Actually, ‘action’ means playing hard, but playing fair.’

‘We watched a couple of plays today on Ian Russell against Jaime or Bryan Namoff, and he didn’t do a good job with that. But, as I said, I’m not complaining or whining about that. Sometimes soccer is like that – some tackles are bad, and some are good. From my opinion, the intentions were bad, but didn’t deserve red cards.’

In the next couple of games you have several away games – LA, NY, SJ. In the past coaches intentionally played conservatively on the road. Will you play conservatively on the road, or continue to play aggressive, attacking soccer?

‘The bottom line is that I don’t care what happen in the past. I don’t give a damn about that. The important thing is that this team sticks together, and they know how to play, and they know what to do to make it better on the field. We’re going to train the whole week and be ready for the game on Saturday. We’ll start tomorrow morning to work on it. It won’t be about how we’re going to play – they already know how to play the game. Tomorrow we start on how we’re going to win this game. We’ve got to send a message to all the players and all the teams that we aren’t that bad, that the game on Saturday wasn’t luck. It was hard work, commitment, and everything else – the little things. It’s not going to be an easy game, for sure. But, what do we have to lose? Nothing. We’re going to go there, we’re going to play our game, stick with our plan, and we’ll see what happens.’

You lose Dema because of the red card. However, you have several options – Prideaux using a 4-4-2, Gros or Ara in a 3-5-2, Cerritos with a 3-4-3. Have you thought about how you will adjust?

(Laugh) ‘You see! I’m bringing you into the locker room tomorrow!’

I guess my point is that the bench is strong and gives you a lot of variety. How will you use it?

‘We’ll see. We’re going to sit down today and watch the game, LA and New England, and analyze it, and see what they did good and what they did bad. Then we’ll get our lineup and our game plan. You have to do something with it. So we’re going to get the best options from that. As you said, we’ve got a lot of options and a lot of depth on this team, it’s amazing.’

When the injured players, such as Santino Quaranta, come back they will want to get into the games right away. Some of them might not get a chance and their egos will suffer. How will you deal with that?

‘Egos? Egos they can leave at home! There’s no . . . I’ll tell you that you go too far with this egos stuff, and who is going to play. That’s why you make your roster so competitive. It’s nothing to do with egos. Either the players are good, or they are bad. If they have egos, they can go somewhere else and show their egos! It’s not going to happen on this team, and that’s for sure. The people who don’t play, who are on the bench, they have to work before they’re going to show up on the field. If they’re going to be mad, or upset, or disappointed, this is our decision, the team’s decision together! If they’re going to be disappointed, then they can look for another place.’

‘The player’s market is really soft. They don’t really have a place and money to do anything. It’s better that they stay right here, working, and have a chance to play a few minutes to prove to us, you guys, media, fans, all of them! If someone complains they don’t have any playing minutes, then they should show me in practice that you deserve to have the minutes. That is how it works!’

‘With Santino, actually he’s done great stuff in the past couple of months. He’s sticking with the team. He’s at every practice. He’s on time. He’s done a great job! Even today, he was supposed to stay in the locker room, but he came out to practice and ran. This mentality is supposed to be for everyone. This is their work. This is the profession they chose.’