Notes: United loose on eve of Cup

Coach Peter Nowak conducted a relatively short training session on Saturday afternoon, with the United players again displaying their unique blend of battle-hardened intensity and youthful humor. After early morning drizzle, the sun came out as United went through their paces for just about an hour on a practice field at The Home Depot Center.

"We had a very good week of practice, and there's nothing to lose right now," said Nowak. "The guys are ready. We're going to find a way to win the game -- it's probably the most important game of their careers."

Nowak shrugged off suggestions that his side is too loose on the eve of the season's biggest match.

"I don't think so," he said. "We accomplished something, and they know it's the final -- when it's time for fun and when it's time for business. You've seen in the last couple of days they were really ready to go, and we had to get them back a little bit. The game is going to be tomorrow -- it's not yesterday. They know what to do."

United's offensive players spent the last part of practice working on set pieces in the attacking third, with Christian Gomez serving in well-struck balls from a variety of spots. On Sunday, left-footers Alecko Eskandarian and Freddy Adu will likely be called upon to strike inswinging free kicks from the right flank, while Earnie Stewart and Gomez should handle the kicks from the left.

PRAISE FOR K.C.: Nowak also paid homage to his opponents, the resilient Wizards, while giving fair warning about his own side's ample preparedness.

"They were pretty consistent the whole season long," he said, "that's why they finished first in the regular season. They had a tough time in San Jose, but they came back, they fought their way back. This was very impressive.

"Even with their injuries, they were still consistent -- they found the right people for the right positions. It's going to be very difficult, but this is the final, this is one game. We are ready to play and if it's necessary, we're going to play 120 (minutes) at full speed, as we play always: aggressive, very disciplined tactically -- our way."

GOMEZ ADDITION KEY: Nowak was questioned strongly from the media from all over the USA about the midseason acquisition of attacking midfielder Gomez.

"We asked ourselves every single morning, do we have a really good, championship team? And we found that a piece was missing. Christian came in, and you guys started to talk: he's not fit, he's not game-fit, he's a good addition, he's a bad addition," Nowak said. "We believe in what we are doing. Every single piece was in place, and after Christian went through the process, he (got) fit, and the team accepted the way he played."

Nowak reacted with annoyance when it was suggested that he has underutilized Gomez, who has yet to play a full 90 minutes since his arrival from Argentina.

"If you have Christian, who can make a difference in 70 minutes, why put him through 90 minutes? That's because we felt this way, and he felt this way. You're watching from upstairs, I'm watching from the bench, and I think that we're close to the action, and we see what's going on on the field, and what kind of changes we have to make.

"We did the same change against New York and then Freddy came in and energized the team, and he set up two goals. That was our thinking in this moment, we felt this way, and everything went according to plan," he said.

EZ READY: After being limited by a calf injury over the past few days, defender Ezra Hendrickson returned to full training Saturday, and should be ready for Sunday's game.

"Ezra played today and trained with us," said Nowak. "We gave him a couple of days because he wasn't really sharp, and (now) he's all right."

Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. Jonathan Nierman contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


To report a comment, mouseover or touch the comment and then click/touch the flag icon (Flag).