Q&A with Brian Carroll, Nana Kuffour
What are your impressions on the team at this point of the season?
"We've done pretty good. I don't know exactly what we were at last season with regards to points and the standings. But, with regards to the style we're playing, its good. Obviously, the game we had against New York was a high, but we were brought back to reality when we played KC. I think we're doing pretty (well) and we're in a good spot. If we continue to work hard in practice and get better for each game, we'll be ready to push our way into the playoffs, go far in the playoffs and then to the final."
You have played every minute of every game this season. Are you feeling any of the mental or physical effects of playing that much?
"I feel great! I think with each game, I get more excited to play. I feel like I have more energy than I did at the beginning of the season. I'm really excited to continue to do the role that I have so far. Hopefully, I can just improve with each game."
You have won the starting defensive midfielder role on the team. What is next for you?
"To become a better defensive midfielder - communicate better, win more tackles, win more balls and cut my possession down. Those are immediate personal goals. I want to win more games. I'm focusing on that here, and hopefully other things will take care of themselves with the effort and intensity I take care of out on the field."
Communications at midfield was a weak point at the beginning of the season. Is overcoming that problem the key to why the midfield is now playing much better?
"I just think with the style of play we've put together, the amount of games the midfield has played together we've worked well. Communicating works well - the more the better. But I think in the games that we've played together, we've gotten to know each other better and communication helps more than people know. The more we play together, the better we will play."
What is your assessment of the morale of the team right now?
"If you're in our locker room everyday, you see that we don't get too high when we win and we don't get too low when we lose, because we know we're a good solid team. We're hard working. I would say the morale throughout the team is good."
How have the many injuries affected the team?
"This stretch of the season is difficult. It's hot, there are national team call-ups and people have been fighting hard throughout the season. It's just going to happen. People are going to get nicks and it's just a matter of people stepping on the field, not just a team of eleven people, but twelve, thirteen or fourteen and throughout the rest of the team. I think the guys have done a good job with that. People are starting to get healthy and push each other on the practice field. I think everybody is coming around and it seems pretty good right now."
Overall the team unity seems stronger than it has been in years. Is that what you see?
"Yeah, I think you find that more on the college level than in the pro level. But, with the style of pre-season we had, we went to Mexico and we had no choice other than to be together all the time. And the way Peter pushes us to be a better, cohesive unit has helped us become closer as a team. Everybody isn't buddy-buddy, but they respect each other on the field and help each other. I think that's better than in years past, (though) I can only speak for last year and this year. I think that quality is much better in this team."
What do you think of Nana Kuffour?
"He's a hard-working, skillful player. He's very strong and very fast. The more time he can spend with us, the better he's going to get. We'll see how he progresses. He's progressed a lot since he's been with us. He caught a bit of a nick, but hopefully he'll get back here soon and get better."
Nana Kuffour - midfielder
How does it feel to officially be part of D.C. United?
"It's great! It's unbelievable, because I've been here for almost four months now and they like me very much and they want me to play. They waited all that time for my papers and I don't think any (other) team would do that. They kept waiting for my papers and I thank God that my papers are in now. I'm very sorry that I got an injury last week, but I'm happy that by next week I'll be OK and I can start playing. How they helped me, how they have treated me, I really appreciate. I'm very happy. They are going to help me and I'm going to get better so I can play the way they want me to play. It's been great since I came to D.C. United."
"Ghana doesn't know that there is soccer in the U.S. yet. I came and saw what was here. If I go back to Ghana, I'm going to tell everybody it is ... I don't know how to describe it! Big-time soccer! They should stop saying, 'Europe, Europe, Europe.' Anywhere now, everybody plays soccer. The USA is great. If you don't have faith, you can't play here because everybody trains hard, they tackle. You don't see anybody walking. You have to be strong.
What are your strengths?
"I'm very strong and I run. I can play short (game) with a lot of passes. I know I'm ready to play. I hope I can make a lot of fans happy. I really appreciate what they have already done for me."
What do you think of coach Nowak?
"I really love Peter. I haven't met a coach like him. Since Ghana, I haven't met any coaches like him. I came and he started showing me how to play, how to do everything. I love him and the other coaches. They have showed me everything. If I play in matches now, I'm going to play better because they have showed me. Whatever they have taught me, I've put into my mind because I want to play for them."
Has coach Nowak talked to you about what position you might play?
"I used to play forward and attacking midfield. I came here and I've played midfield on the wing. I'm a dribbler. That's how I played with the U-17s in Ghana. When I came here, I met the 'seniors.' I have a senior that is good - Earnie Stewart is good. You have to respect your seniors. Peter told me that. He told me that I could play there, and that's why he put me there. I really appreciate that he put me there."
Have you set any goals for this year?
"No, I haven't thought about that. I missed so much because of the papers and now injury. If I'm OK next week, I want to start playing. I signed a developmental contract. If I play better, eventually I will start."
You mentioned Earnie Stewart. Which other players have helped you so far?
"I love everybody here! Ben Olsen, Jaime Moreno, Freddy (Adu), 'Nelly' (Ryan Nelsen), 'Nicky' (Nick Rimando) ... everybody! I love them all. When I came here, I didn't understand. I used to go to Nelly and he would say, 'Nana, you're supposed to do this,' and the next time I would do it better. After practices, I could go back to Ben Olsen and say, 'I don't understand this,' or 'Can you show me this?' and they really appreciate what I'm trying to do. Nobody else would do that before D.C. United
John Dyson is a contributor to DCUnited.com.