Q&A with Nowak, Moreno, Lawson
Peter Nowak - head coach
Looking back on Saturday, what went right, what went wrong?
"I think that there was good running. We should have done better with the ball. The first goal, the one from 'Nellie' was discouraging on his comeback to the team. There were also a couple of mistakes we made on that play. But then we tied the game and we felt that we were going to win that game. I talked with the team they felt at that moment things were going good.
"We moved Earnie (Stewart) back into the midfield with Bennie Olsen, moved Josh Gros to the right side, and Dema (Kovalenko) to the left and made a couple of other adjustments letting Freddy (Adu) and Christian (Gomez) have more freedom. We thought we'd score that next goal. But then we made another mistake that cost us another goal. We didn't do good on that particular play because C.J. Brown just sent the ball downfield like he was dumping, not like he was trying to make a perfect cross - we all know that he's not Platini, right? Justin Mapp was able to get behind us, and then there was the deflection, and a goal. We then had to start to push the game again, chase the game and we got punished."
"As I said, the soccer part wasn't as good as we played in Columbus or New England. I don't know what the possession was for the game, but we had the majority of it. It doesn't matter at the end of the day."
How do you bring the team back up for this Saturday's game against Dallas after last Saturday's loss to Chicago?
"As I said, we've had a couple of meetings. They know what it's like right now. New England had three home games and they only got one point - one point against us. We're lucky not to be in last place. We expect to play much better. We know that we have four home games, but we cannot expect them to be easy. We cannot fool ourselves. Talk is cheap. We had mistakes against Chicago, and we're going to play them in two weeks. We have to correct those mistakes and win those games."
Some would say that D.C. United does not chase a game well. Is that your opinion?
"No, I would disagree. I think that this team chases a game very well. Sometimes you will see it in our practices in the small-side games - 4 v. 4 or 5 v. 5. After a goal is scored, a new side comes in. The new side comes in and in five, ten or fifteen seconds later, the new team will score a goal because the first team is too satisfied. You have to be more hungry. You have to be more angry. Are we put this away? This is all about mentality. I disagree. We seem to chase the game always. Sometimes we do it well, but sometimes not so well. This last game in Chicago wasn't like some of our games earlier in the season when we just sat back and relaxed, like in Dallas."
The team held a long meeting after practice. What did you talk about with the team?
"We just had to talk about a couple of things before the home game this Saturday. We know how important it is. That was a 'two way street' discussion that was pretty effective."
How important has Alecko Eskandarian become to this team?
"Alecko is important. His development from the beginning of this season has been important. He's a different person. I really appreciate the work he's put in and the way we work together and how he works with Jaime (Moreno) and the other players. But, as I said, I have 24 people and they are all important to me. We'll see how far Alecko goes. He's had a great year so far. I think all of us, starting from Kevin Payne to Francisco Tobar (equipment manager), appreciate the work he is doing because he is working hard. You can't ever say that Alecko isn't putting his heart on the line for the game."
How did Ryan Nelsen perform in his first game in two months?
"He did very well. The goal was just bad luck. The second goal was also bad luck. It wasn't a great header from Justin Mapp. Brandon (Prideaux) was in the wrong place at the wrong time. With 'Nellie' the goal was the same thing. 'Nellie' played very well. He battled all the time with Nate Jaqua and he won most of those battles. Nate Jaqua is a very physical player. Right now, we just need to get all the defenders back together. I'm sure 'Nellie' has enough leadership to get these guys together again."
Are you satisfied with the leadership you're seeing in the team?
"It's a combination of things. Some days it is some players, and on other days it is others that need to be pushed to the level where they are going to be good. Leadership is created on the field. Different people on different days will take charge. Some days it might be Dema Kovalenko, some days it is Benny Olsen, maybe some days it is Josh Gros. Somebody makes the call and says, 'OK, this is how we're going to do it right now.' As far as that, yes I think we have the guys to make that call."
Jaime Moreno - forward
In your opinion, how is D.C. United emotionally and physically at this moment in the playoff run?
"I think we had a bad game and we can't make too big of a deal about it. I know that on the road we haven't been too successful, but we know that we have six games left and how important they are going to be. We just got to pull together everything we've done through the season and try to make it work. We know what we have to do."
In the recent road games in Columbus and New England, D.C. United dominated. But, in Chicago there seem to be problems. What are the differences in the games?
"We didn't create the mistakes that we had in the last game. I think that's the key right now, to minimize the mistakes as much as possible. That's football all over the world. It's no secret that the fewer mistakes you make the less chances you have to lose the game. That is a key right now in our team and that's what we're going to work on for Saturday's game."
How much pressure are the players feeling with six games left?
"No pressure at all. We know that one of the main things when we get out on the field is to have fun. Of course, if we lose we're not going to have fun, but we're human and we make mistakes. The main thing is that we've got to believe in ourselves and that's what we've got to try to do. We know that we've got a good team. And we know we shouldn't be in the position we're in right now. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to make any points on the road."
Is the communication between you Alecko Eskandarian to the point where you feel like he is now your natural strike partner?
"I don't know, I think you should ask him that question. Obviously, Alecko has had a good season so far. He's been a guy that's always been there and scored some good goals. I feel he's a guy that is hot right now, and it's a coaching decision as to if he plays or not. Anybody who is playing with me, or whoever is in front, it's because they deserve to be there."
How has Christian Gomez changed your role on the team, and the team's overall play on the field?
"Well, he's a good soccer player and he's playing well now. This will be the first home game and you guys will see how capable he is. So far, he's done a good job trying to get into the mechanisms of the team. It hasn't been easy for him, but he's done a good job."
What will it take for D.C. United to get into the playoffs?
"Communicate better and believe in ourselves. To be fair, I think we're going to be all right. We'll be fine. It's just a matter of trying to find a way to win. That's the most important thing. We might struggle a little bit, but I think we're going to be fine. Once we're in the playoffs, it's a totally different game."
What are the differences between this team's playoff run and previous teams' that you have been a part of?
"It's hard to explain. That team was totally different. There were so many experienced players, but with young players too, that did really well at that moment. I think it was just the mentality, the winning mentality. It was there all the time no matter if we were training or whoever we were playing. Even so, I think most of the guys here have that winning mentality. That anger of winning things always is something I think we need."
What is your role in the locker room now? Do you feel like you are a leader of the team?
"I don't feel like a leader. I know a lot of the guys look up to me and they see what I do. I know that I'm an example for the young guys. I try to do my best. I don't talk much, but if I do, I try to make sense. I don't think in football there's much to say. I just train and show up in games and keep on going."
After practice the team gathered on the training field for a long talk. What was discussed? How is coach Nowak's leadership of the team at this moment?
"He's done a good job. Once we step on the field we all know ... We've just got to do a better job. It's as simple as that."
Tim Lawson - midfielder
What does it feel like to be a part of D.C. United?
"It's great! Being over in Germany for the last five years was a good experience, but I always wanted to come back and play in the league before I got too old. It's nice to be here. I'm lucky to be here. I came in earlier for a trial for three days and trained pretty well and I'm happy they called me back."
What do you know about the league and the team?
"Not so much. I have some college buddies that play in the league. I played with Brandon Prideaux. I generally kept in contact with them. I read all the American papers over there and tried to keep up as much as possible."
What role in midfield do you prefer?
"I'm more of a central midfielder. In my first couple of years in Germany, I played more of an attacking midfielder, but in the last couple I played a defensive midfielder. I can play a bit of both."
What expectations do you have for the rest of the year?
"First, to get healthy. I hurt my leg a couple of weeks ago in training. That's priority number one. Priority number two is to try to help the team anyway I can. I know they have a couple of big games coming up. I just want to get healthy and help the team anyway I can."
As a player what are your strengths?
"Being over in Germany taught me to run and fight, that's pretty much German football. I'm good technically and can play one and two touch. From a defensive midfield standpoint, I can distribute the ball. From the offensive standpoint I create a little bit. I've got some good skills."
What about weaknesses?
"I came back from Germany in June when the season ended. It's been two months since I've had any game experience. I'd say that just game fitness is a weakness, and getting used to the speed of the game again."
What are the differences between Germany and MLS play?
"Yes there are differences. I was playing over in the third division in Germany. Most of the guys over there playing have the basic technical skills, but there were four or five guys that just didn't have the quality to make practices competitive. Coming here, I noticed that every player is technically sound and has a basic understanding of the game. That makes it much more fun in training, because it doesn't matter who is on your team, whether they're on the first eleven or substitutes. It makes for good competition in training."
What does it mean to you to be playing with some of the big name guys in MLS, such as Earnie Stewart, Ben Olsen and Jaime Moreno?
"It's great! You get to watch them on TV playing for the national team. To be able to come in and get a look at how they play, and how they earned it, what makes them the special player to get a call up to the national team, you get to see it first hand and compare yourself to them. You always wonder if you can stand up to that level. It's great and exciting."
John Dyson is a contributor to DCUnited.com.