Head Coach Tommy Soehn
How are things going for the team?
“Good! The starting points are pretty good for everybody fitness-wise. The attitudes have been great – they’ve been putting in the work.”
Speaking of fitness, Coach (Mark Simpson) mentioned that the team will be taking a different approach this year, a more technical approach. Can you explain that? Is the different approach because there were so many injuries last year?
“I think when you evaluate last year, we had so many injuries, and the amount of games that we had, that you were asking the healthy guys to do more. It really stretched them out and you wear them out.”
“It was a combination of things. So, we made sure in this off season that we evaluated everything to see what we could do to make it better for everybody. One of the things that will help that is having a deep team and avoiding injuries.”
“We’re doing a lot of research. We making sure that we don’t over-train, and that we train in the right ways.”
Last year you brought in several players and now they are gone. What was the problem? Were they the wrong players? Was it bad chemistry?
“Coming into this league, especially for foreigners, it’s difficult. It’s a very athletic league, and with the amount of travel you do, and that you play in the summer months it’s a hard adjustment. So, we felt that building the core around the guys that have been here . . . we have a good core of guys.”
“At the end of last year because of the injuries, we had to build from the bottom up. It made us a lot better team.”
Are you going to make the key of this team that group of guys that have been around for the last couple of years? Or are you still looking to bring in a “big name” player? A designated player?
“I think . . . . We always leave our options open. But when you look at some of the guys that you have on this team, you have MVPs. You got guys that make the guys around them better. I think so much needs to be said about the team and not the individual.”
“I’m real confident with the guys that we have, that one, we’re good offensively, and that we’ve got to do better defensively. We let in a lot of goals.”
Was that the problem last year?
“There were a lot of things that we had to adjust to – different line ups, new keeper. There was a lot of ‘newness’ and with CONCACAF on us we didn’t have a lot of time to be patient and work on things. This year it is refreshing that we don’t have to go through that.”
You talk about the depth of the team. One of the biggest changes is the league getting rid of the Reserve League. How is that going to affect this year’s squad going forward?
“In reality we’re still twenty-four deep. A lot of those guys that aren’t back or won’t have a roster spot were guys that were on the bubble. The Reserve League was valuable for them.”
“We’ve opened up two senior roster spots and you can put in guys that you have faith in. It’s a reality. It’s made competition for our spots tough. We’re going to have some decisions to make after spring training.”
One of those decisions is going to be Ben Olsen. What have you discussed with him about his role with this team?
“I think first and foremost that we have to make sure in the future that he’s able to play. You take one day at a time. . . . One step at a time. . . . He’s been doing really well and his body is healing. In the process he’s been able to make it through quite a few training sessions, so that’s encouraging.”
“We’re going to make sure that we’re not rushing him. He’s always been honest and open with us when we’re doing too much.”
“In the short amount of that we’ve been together, you can always tell a difference when Ben plays. We missed that desperately last year – the enthusiasm and the energy and the experience that he brings.”
Jaime Moreno, the heart and soul of this team, he is 34 years old. Do you have plans to limit his playing this year?
“Well, I think that Jaime has come out of the couple of surgeries . . . .more like oil changes . . . . he’s come back really strong. He’s done a lot of work on that to make sure that he’s recovered all of his strength in those areas.”
“Unfortunately, last year, we had to push him more than we wanted to. In an ideal world you want to manage Jaime and be able to pick and choose . . . to set him up to be successful. So of that is limiting his playing time, such as not playing him on ‘turf.’”
“From what I’ve seen so far, we should have that ability this year. We should have that option this year.”
Last year the team owners said something to the effect that winning internationally was one of, if not the, goal of the team. Have the team decided what the strategic goals are for this season?
“We always set our goals to accomplish a lot in all the competitions. The reality is that it is very difficult. It left a bitter taste in our mouths about CONCACAF. And a lot of that had to do with the officiating. It wasn’t very fair.”
“I think this year our goal is to be back on top of the league. The rest of it all comes along with that. Obviously winning the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup are big for us. We want to establish ourselves as a power in the league.”
What are your goals for the team through pre-season? What should people be looking for?
“The first one (camp) is a little bit more fitness related. This group is very honest group. We can do a lot of that through playing, which excites me. We need to make sure that we come together as a group in this first one. There are a lot of new faces and trialists here and we have to make sure that everyone has a good understanding of each other . . . and knowing what it is to be a team.”
“The second one will be to bring the team even closer, but now it is tactical.”
“And the third one is the one that it all comes together.”
And finally, the question you hate to answer, what inactive or retired player do you want on this team right now? Last year you picked Beckenbauer.
“Well, it can’t be active .. . . That’s always a tough one to answer! Right now I’m happy with what we have . . . I’d have Peter Nowak.”
Midfielder Ben Olsen
How are you feeling?
“I’m feeling OK. It’s good to be back playing even though it is somewhat limited as far as not being able to play everyday.”
“The ankle is cooperating . . . it feels great. It’s good to be back with the boys and competing.”
“When you’re hurt, you’re part of the team, but you’re really not. It’s nice just being out there working with the boys.”
You worked out this morning, but decided to sit out this afternoon. Why?
“We did the training last night and it held up. This morning it was pretty sore, but it warmed up enough to get through a training. This afternoon it wasn’t going to go.”
“It’s about managing myself so that I don’t get too sore . . . so I don’t put myself back a couple of more days. By taking off this afternoon hopefully I can have one good training tomorrow.”
Have you made THE decision that you will definitely play through this season? Is there a date?
“I’m fully prepared to go through the season. In what role and what capacity has yet to be determined.”
Have you talked to Tommy Soehn about that?
“Yeah, we’ve discussed it! He’s been great. I think he trusts that when I can play I will do everything I can to impact the team in the right way, whatever role that may be.”
“We’re all kind of feeling this thing out. This is a new thing for me, and probably a new thing for them – dealing with a guy who can’t play everyday.”
“I hope to get it to a point where I can train everyday. But, right now, in pre-season, the two-a-days, we’re going to have to pick and choose some times to take the load off it.”
You’ve been a starter with this team pretty much since day one. Are you prepared to be a “super sub?”
“Again, in my mind, right now, is to be a positive influence on this team. If that means me playing twenty minutes, and helping shore up a lead, or if it’s me needing to fill in for an injury . . . . If I become a starter and can do that role every now and then . . . .”
“I’m dealing with a mind frame of, ‘I shouldn’t be playing!’ I was prepared to retire and prepared to not play this game ever again. Anything at this point is really exciting. The prospect of stepping on the field ever again is very exciting again. So, whatever that’s going to be, that’s going to be up to Tommy and the coaching staff.”
“I’ll be honest with them, and they’ll be honest with me. We’ve got a good relationship. It’s a type of thing that we can work out.”
This team has changed again. How that affected the team? How has it affected the chemistry?
“Chemistry doesn’t always mean that it’s been a team that has been together for three years. Chemistry can happen right away if it’s the right group of guys. Last year wasn’t the right group of guys. For whatever reason it just wasn’t the right group that was going to get that team to the next level.”
“I think they’ve made some commitments to some of the guys that have been here for a little bit now. I think our core base is held over now for a couple of years – ‘Luci’ (Emilio), Fred, Namoff, Jaime (Moreno), myself, Devon (McTavish), Burch, Clyde (Simms) that’s ten guys that have been here for a couple of years playing.”
“You’re always looking to keep that core base . . . . keep what your team is about. And you’re always looking for new pieces. We’ve got a couple of nice ones that are going to fit in on the field and chemistry-wise.”
What does this team have to do this year to wash away last year’s problems?
“Obviously we need to defend better. We scored some goals last year. There was a stretch that we even looked pretty good. But overall, defensively we weren’t together. It seems like that we didn’t defend as a unit. We defended OK individually. But as a team we didn’t help each other out, or jell as a defensive unit. If you don’t do that you’re screwed.”
Do you feel that this team needs a “big name” player to be successful?
“DC United needs to field eleven guys that are going to win! It has nothing to do with names. We’re lucky that we don’t have to bring in any type gimmick. We’ve got a nice core of fans that want to see us win. That’s all that is important. It has always been that.”
“I think that as an organization we have learned some stuff with what was going on. But, it’s about the winning for us, not so much the juggling and the circus shows.”
What are your personal goals for the pre-season and the season?
“Personal goals? I keep saying this . . . whatever my role is I need it to be a positive influence. I need to help this team in whatever capacity. If it’s on the bench, I need to be ready to be a sub. If I’m starting, I need to be ready to do my job. If I’m doing neither, I need to be able to help the young guys. I need to do what I can do to positively affect this team.”
“I know it’s a vague answer. As far as me, personally, I need to be honest with myself this year and be smart about the times I can play and cannot play. I have a tendency to over do it because I don’t like to not play. So, I’ll put up with the pain to the point where it is painful and I’ll go again. Then all of a sudden, I’m out three days.”
“That’s the challenge I have facing me. To make sure I don’t go overboard.”