Q & A with Marc Burch and Clyde Simms

Defender Marc Burch
How is pre-season going for you?
“It’s going well.”

“It’s different this year. A lot more people came in fit and ready to go. It’s a lot more soccer. And the coaches are taking a look at how we are doing and how our fitness is doing, which is a lot better. I think we pushed a little too hard last year and burned out. This year everyone is enjoying coming back and feeling good.”

There were serious changes between 2007 and 2008, and now more changes from last year to this year. What do you believe that has done to the team?
“It’s definitely a big change. It feels like a lot more . . . . like everybody working for each other. We felt last year that it (pre-season) was more like trying to feel each other out. But, this year everybody is ready to work hard and get into it and be there for each other.”

“It feels good knowing that the guy next to you is working as hard as you are. It keeps him going and keeps you going. It just keeps going down, and down, and down. When somebody comes in that fit, then you know you have to get to that level. You know people worked hard in the off-season, so you’re going to work hard. It’s definitely better.”

“Last year we had people coming in that didn’t really know the team, didn’t really know how we ran things. This year is more like a core group of guys. A lot of that are back from last year are the group that is going to lead the team.”

How does it make you feel that your contending for a left side position and you have competition from Zaher, Fred, and Guerrero?
“It’s good! It’s great! It pushes me every single day to continue to work on my game and get better. I don’t think that I’ve got a spot guaranteed – I know they want me to play left back – so, I need to prove that I can play left back for this team.”

“With the guys in front and the guys behind me, everybody is working for each other this year and we’ve just got to fit in the right pieces.”

“If I have to move up to midfield, then I have to do it. If I have to play center back, then I have to do it.”

“I have to compete for a starting spot. I’m not just saying that I have a spot and I’m going to move forward from there. I’m going to make sure that on the 22nd (March) I’m going to be starting against LA (Galaxy).”

Many people point at the defense as the weak point last year. Specifically, many people point at the back line as a major weakness, and you were a major part of that last year. What do you think of that accusation?
“I take full responsibility. At the beginning of the year I started at left back, then I got benched. I take responsibility even when we’re giving up goals when I’m on the bench – I’m not pushing hard enough to make sure I get on the field, or I’m not good enough to be on the field. I take that to heart.”

“Also, we had some injuries. You can’t always blame things on injuries, but it is tough to move people around. When I came back into the line up it was more as a center back role, which I’d never played. But, I worked as hard as I could to try to figure out that role and to try to help out the team.”

“We take all the responsibility. I come into this season thinking that there is no way that we’re going to be anywhere close to the bottom of the table. It doesn’t matter who we have back there, we’re going to be working hard for each other.”

“I’m just hoping that we can prove what we did two years ago when we went on that seven game shutout streak, and a fourteen game unbeaten streak. I think that’s where we can be at this year. It will be a lot of hard work, but I think we have the guys to do it.”

“It’s going to be a lot more of a team defense than last year. I felt like last year people were pointing the finger at us, but that’s only four people, and there’s eleven people on the team. If the opponents take eight people forward, we can’t guard all eight. All of us are going to be committed to defending and getting the shutouts.”

Several of the other players this week said that they believe the team has a good enough core group of players to go forward this season. Do you feel that way?
“I feel like we’re good right now. I felt like I had games last year where I completely shut down the right side coming at me. I know that Namoff had plenty of games where he shut down his side. When the center backs were on, we were shutting people down. We can do it. When we stick together and cover for each other when someone does falter, I don’t think we need anyone else right now.”

“If they bring him in, hopefully we’ll be able to fit him in.”

“But, I think we have the people. If we play our best game every single game, and cover for each other, then I don’t see why we can’t have one of the best defenses.”

What are you personal goals, and what do you see as the goals for the team?
“I hate coming into this pre-season knowing that we were one of the lowest teams in MLS. The fact is that we were. We want to be the best team. We had games where we looked like we were one of the best teams.”

“Definitely this year I’m looking forward to getting more into the attack – getting forward, scoring some goals, getting a lot more assists . . . . and definitely shoring up the back. We’ve got to better in the back. We can’t ever let in five goals in a game. We can’t let four or even three goals in a game. Two max! I’m hoping for shutouts for every single game.”

“I’ve been thinking throughout the off-season that when I get with the defense that we’re going to pick goals . . . pick games where we’re going to get the shutout, going to shut down the big name players, shut down the flanks and not let crosses into the big guys. As a team I think we’ll be able to do it this year.”

Midfielder Clyde Simms
How is pre-season going for you?
“It’s going well.”

“We’re taking a different approach this pre-season. I think it has to do with us not having games so early like we had it the past. We’re taking it slow. I think it’s great on our bodies.”

“We do have a bunch of new faces and some very good players that I’m excited to be able to hopefully play with in the season coming up.”

Looking back on 2008 with all the changes, what do you take away from that?
“Like you said, there were a lot of changes in key positions. There were two center backs, and those are huge positions as far as the team is concerned. . . . .And a Number ‘10′ that we brought in also. And a new goalie, and that’s a big spot. All those spots take a lot of leadership.”

“We knew it was going to be tough. Those guys were new to the team. Soccer is a team sport and it takes a lot of chemistry. Whenever you bring new faces in, no matter how good those players are, it takes time to get those players together on the same page. I think we saw that a lot last season.”

Last year many said that the defense was the key weak point in the team. What do you think about that?
“When I think of defense in soccer I think of team defense . . .it’s all eleven players. It starts up to the forwards. A lot of people don’t realize how much pressure that the forwards can take off the midfielders, and the midfielders can take off of the backs if they pressure the attacker in the right way. It’s not about winning balls, but forcing attackers in one direction to make it easier for the guy behind you. I definitely think it’s a total team effort.”

“Some of the teams you watch, even in the big leagues in Europe some of teams rarely let in goals because guys are flying around, even the forwards are flying around putting pressure on defensive backs, not allowing them time to have good service forward. Things like that.”

“Team defending also has a lot to do with team chemistry. When you play with someone for a long time, a lot of the time you know where they’re going to be even if they’re behind you and you can’t see the – you know what positions they’re going to be in. That communication is usually there the longer guys have been together. I go back to the team chemistry thing and I think that had a lot to do with the break down in team defending.”

DC United has almost always worked with an offensive and defensive midfielder throughout its history – last year you were with Gallardo. How much of a disruption is it to your game to possibly get a new partner? And have you talked to Tommy Soehn about and specific names?
“No, I haven’t heard much about replacing Marcello. I do know that we do have some other good central midfielders. They may be a little more defensive minded.”

“I know that last year, when Marcello was out, we had to play with two defensive minded midfielders. I think that works well! I think that works well because a lot of the times, if you have a specific attacking midfield it limits the lanes for others to get forward. I feel you can throw the other team off if you have two guys, both attacking and defensive . . . one guy goes, the other holds. When you play with an attacking midfield and a defensive midfielder, a lot of the time they know that the attacker is going to be in the attacking position, and the defensive midfielder is going to hold back.”

“I’m excited to see if they do bring in someone. That’s totally up to the coaches. I do think that we have the talent here to fill that void.”

What are you personal goals and what do you think the goals for the team should be?
“My personal goals . . . I think ultimately that my personal goals will happen only by being on a great team . . . a winning team. First and foremost I want to make us a successful soccer team. When that comes, I think the other things, like National Team call-ups and things like that, will come after that. Right now I’m just focused on making the team the best possible.”

You turned down some offers in Europe? Do you want to go to Europe?
“I had some trials at Nottingham Forrest and Blackpool. They’re in the Championship. I thought about it long and hard, and I’m very happy here at DC United.”

“There are a lot of guys that go from team to team looking for a good situation. I feel that I have that good situation. I’m close to my family and home. I enjoy DC as a city. I’m happy.”

“I don’t think that I should just go after the money or something like that. I”ve talked with some guys that made that jump, then ended up back here, and they ended up in a worse situation now than when they first left. It’s tough. I might think down the road that I should have gone, but I’m happy.”

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