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Namoff: Here’s to you, #26

It’s no surprise that Bryan Namoff suspending his playing career received no mention on the ESPN2 telecast of Thursday night’s DC United match against Seattle. The fans, however, remembered.

They held up “26” signs, representing his number, and there were other signs giving thanks to someone who wasn’t a star, but was certainly appreciated greatly, especially by fans and those who understand soccer.

Namoff wasn’t a flashy on-field player, but he was someone who had a good command of what was happening on the field, and had grown confident in his leadership abilities.

When Namoff was at the beginning of his professional career, I can remember interviewing him and barely getting a few words out of him, but he was never above his station. When many players would have – and did – refuse a trip to the lower levels of the USL to improve their game, Namoff embraced it, learning how to be a professional. Actually, by the act alone, he showed his professionalism.

In the last few years, Namoff grew comfortable in the spotlight, even as he didn’t seek it. He was a durable, dependable player who knew his role, and, for the most part, executed it with aplomb.

There won’t be a lot of stats on Namoff that will mean much in the grand scheme of things. 16,000 minutes. 195 games. Hardly ones that would stand out to most people in any sport. But those stats point out that he was dependable, if not flashy, and had earned the trust of his coaches and teammates, and the appreciation of fans, by his effort and heart. He did his job day-in and day-out and did it without complaint.  

United fans can only hope that he’ll be able to resume his playing career at some point. He’s still just 31. No doubt he’ll execute his new role with the team successfully, even as he’ll no doubt wish he was back on the field.

It’s the third United player in recent years who has had to suspend their career or retire – Josh Gros and Alecko Eskandarian (though he played with other teams, he’s still United to me) are the others. Like in other sports, concussions are nothing to play around with. They need to be taken as among the most serious injury one can suffer in sport. Unlike other injuries, concussions are the big unknown.

We can only hope that he’s not dealing with too many adverse symptoms as a result of the previous concussions, and we can only hope that they fully subside and he can resume a career, and more importantly, live a normal, pain-free life.

Here’s to you, #26. Best wishes. 

Q and A with Quaranta and Namoff

Santino Quaranta:

How is pre-season going for you? “It’s good. It’s been fun so far. This is the first time coming into a season with confidence.” “We had some fitness stuff last week – 2 miles in 12 minutes – I completed that in under 12 minutes.” “Just overall, around here it’s been a good feeling as a team. I think everybody understands that the way we’re going win this year, and the way we’re going to succeed this year is as a team. We’re not going to count on individuals. It seemed like that last year. We had to count on different guys. And when they didn’t succeed, when it didn’t work out every game, the wind got let out of the sail a little bit.” “I think this is more of a group. I said this in an interview on the MLS website with Charlie (Boehm) it’s definitely more of a team feeling here than it’s ever been for me in the past. That’s the recipe for success. It’s going to be alright.”

You have been around teams that went through drastic changes, such as those under Ray Hudson. In 2008, DC United brings in several players, but now they are all gone. How much of a disruption is that to the team? “In all honesty . . . it’s almost . . . You bring in so many guys and not one of them are here now. You have to move on from it. We’ve all made mistakes, and I’m sure that the front office does it differently now. But, you have to have respect for what they did. Tommy (Soehn) coming in here and saying, ‘We’re going to try to steady the ship.’ – I think that’s what they did last year.”

Have you talked to Head Coach Soehn about what he expects out of you this season? “We haven’t had that conversation yet.” What do you want to tell him going into that conversation? “There’s not a whole lot that I need to tell.” “For me, when you want to succeed you put the best eleven out there. That’s their (the coaches) job to figure out who and where the players go.” “Do I feel I should out there now? If it’s on right side, then it’s on the right side. Or if it’s in the middle, or helping out defensively, that’s what I’ll do. Or if it’s playing forward, that’s what I’ll do.” “A good team isn’t like robots. That’s the good thing that’s always been with DC United. The feeling here now is that we’ve got so many talented players that can drift around. We’ve got guys like Fred that gives us the freedom to play. That would be the perfect scenario for me, to give me some freedom.”

You have already had some highs and lows in your career. There were many expectations when you were younger. Then, with your admission to personal problems many fans just wanted you to succeed on a basic level. Now that you got to that level, fans are now looking for you to get back to that high level of playing that was originally expected of you. Do you feel that pressure to become more than just an “average” player? “There should be that kind of pressure! That’s a sign of becoming a good player – people expect more of you. I don’t want to just a player that scores two goals year after year. I want to be in that ten goal range.” “I need that pressure. I need to know that my team is counting on me to perform. That’s what I live for – that nervous feeling to succeed.” “The people that are closest to me know how hard I work now. These guys know that I’d do anything for this team. Really! I’ve got a love for this team from the top on down – Kevin (Payne) and everybody! This is a family feeling here for me now. I’d do anything for this team to succeed.”

What is the one thing this team needs to do to be successful? “If you have to point to just one thing I’d say . . . you have to start out the year a little faster. We were five games in the last two years and not doing well.” “This is the first time in a while that we’ve had a pre-season that we have two months to work. We aren’t worried about games three or four weeks in.” “We have to figure out what’s the best fit for formations for everybody on the team.” “I’d say we probably have to shore up our backs, and have a set back four going into the season, and not worry about making changes. Let’s get that squared away first. That’s what’s going to win us a championship. From the front to the back we have to defend as a team, and not worry about making this look pretty. We need to shore up our defense because if we’re not leaking goals we have the talent to score.” We’ve got the attacking players to score goals, and we’ve had that for a while.” “If we can do that we’re going to win some games.”

What are your personal goals? “I’d like to get to double digits in both goals and assists – ten and ten. Ten and five would be nice.” “That and I’d like to make the playoffs.”

Bryan Namoff:

How are things going for you this pre-season? “It’s always nice to start a new pre-season because it’s a clean slate – a new beginning. It’s where you can put the past behind you.” “I’m really excited for this year! A lot of the guys, including myself, you can tell, have put in the effort during the off season to get ready for this year. I think the core group is much fitter coming into this year, and I feel that they are more committed.”

With all the changes between 2007 and 2008, and now with more changes with this season, how has that affected the team? “We’ll see. The only answer that I can think of is that with as many changes that we made last year it was very difficult. I feel like with the core group . . . it wasn’t really there. It was disassembled and trying to find your main guys, who were going to put in the majority of minutes, it was difficult to see because there were so many changes. And putting that on top of the injuries it was really disruptive and took its toll on everybody.”

The defense has taken a lot of the blame for last year. How does it make you feel? “Sure! Sure! Yeah, from the defensive stand point they said, ‘the defense struggled . . .the defense isn’t performing . . ..they’re underperforming . . . .’ I’m in the back line so that I take personally.” “That’s one of the things that I’ve held with me through the end of last season into this pre-season. I’ve dedicated myself to be better from an individual stand point in order to help the team.” “I think if we can do that . . . if we can ask ourselves, ‘What can I do that I didn’t do . . . How can I become better and not just become complacent?’ If we get enough guys to say that, they’ll put the team ahead of themselves and their own individual goals.”

Do you feel like the core group of guys, such as yourself, Moreno, Olsen, Simms, Burch has the skills and experience to carry this team forward this year? “It’s interesting that you’re now starting to see some of the younger players, like Devon McTavish and Mark Burch, become slowly seasoned veterans. They are now making up that proto-typical root of a team.” “I do think the more years you can play with another player you build and develop chemistry. And if we can get enough hard working players as that core unit, I think that’s when success happens.”

Now that you are almost thirty, as bad as this question is to ask, for a player most would consider that an age where you are looking on the down side of a career. Have you thought about that at all? “No. I will prove that it won’t. I feel going into this pre-season better than I have in years past. I feel a lot fitter.” “As an experienced player I don’t think I’ve hit my peak yet. Maybe I’m a late bloomer, as they say. And that’s what I’ll be striving to prove.”

With the lack of success from last year, how much pressure is there for this team to be successful? “It’s everything. The build up and pressure are pretty high for the coming year. We have a lot to prove.” “The Open Cup, although it’s great because I haven’t won it before, it’s a let down.” “The expectations outside the organization, the fans, we have to dedicate our performance to them and bring a trophy for them.”

What are your goals for the season? “My goals . . to have the best year I’ve ever had. From a collective stand point and individual standpoint. I want to be the best that I’ve ever been.” You want to be an MLS All-Star? “Yeah, that would be great! In order to do that, you have to be successful within your team. They all go hand in hand. If that can be the result of it, that would be great.”