Q&A with Olsen, Thompson
Ben Olsen - midfield
What is it going to take for D.C. United to get into the playoffs?
"I don't know. We need to win our home games and we need to steal a couple of points away. We need to have a better away form. I think our home form has been good. I thought we were a little unlucky last game. We didn't finish it and get those points. I think that's we need to do, improve our away form and steal some points with a win or two on the road and finish up with the points at home."
What has been the problem with the away games for D.C. United over the last several years?
"We need to challenge ourselves. Maybe it's a mentality, maybe it's a heart issue. I don't know what it is. We need to find ways to win on the road. For whatever reason, we're not doing it. It's got to change. We probably have the worst (away) record in MLS over the last three years. It's unacceptable, especially in this league. The atmospheres aren't that difficult in this league to go into. Some other areas, when you play AC Milan away, it's a different atmosphere, you've got people yelling and screaming. Our atmospheres aren't that tough to get beyond. It's a field, it's 11 versus 11. For whatever reason, we're not winning. I don't know. Maybe it's the way we're playing, maybe it's the mentality when we go in there, but it's something we need to figure out."
Last week coach Soehn said that the multiple lineups over the season, the lack of consistency, should be looked at as one possible reason for the team's up and down performances. Is that something you believe is a problem?
"No, that consistency is always good in a team, when you have your system intact and can plug pieces in and out, that's always great. Our dynamics are different with this team and we have guys that can play a lot of different roles. We've had a lot of injuries and suspensions and that's part of the game, but that's no reason why we can't go in and sneak three points somewhere. One away win this year isn't good enough. I don't think that's a good excuse."
The team is using several younger players throughout its lineup. What are your impressions of Josh Gros up to this point in the season?
"I think he's probably the most consistent player we've had to date. He's been great every game. He does his job, he works his (tail) off. I think he's been unlucky not to have more points on the boards with goals and assists. His work ethic is unmatched, he's a great kid and that's always important when you come in. The guys love him. He's a nice guy and a really selfless player. I'm sure the coaching staff and the players are really happy that he's here."
What about Brian Carroll?
"Brian has done a great job too. Brian is a great type of kid. He's going to die for this team, another selfless guy. I still think that Brian needs to be a little nastier. He's a nice kid, but he's had a great year too. They say that he's hit a little bit of a wall, that he's been tired. It's a pretty talented team and there's other midfielders coming through, so they may want him to try a little something else."
It has been only a couple of days, but what are your impressions of Christian Gomez?
"I don't think he's fit yet, but they wouldn't bring him here unless he was a very talented player. I've just heard things through the grapevine that he's very talented and crafty player. Once he gets fit and used to this heat, he's going to help us."
In one word, what does D.C. United needs most for the rest of the season?
"Character. I think we need to show more character, especially when things aren't going our way. Can we adjust when things aren't going well on the road, or can we adjust at home and sneak some points?"
Jason Thompson - forward
What are your thoughts and impressions of D.C. United?
"I know that when I first heard of the trade, I was very, very excited. And now that I'm here, and I know a couple of the guys from the U-23s - Alecko (Eskandarian), Carroll, and (David) Stokes - and I'd be excited about seeing them, all the guys are just awesome. It's a lot more fresh feeling here than in Dallas. Everyone here is ready to play soccer everyday and that's what I love about it here."
What are your impressions of coach Nowak?
"I like to think that I relate a lot to him. The way he coaches is the way I play. He's real emotional and cares a lot about his players and his team. I like to think I'm the same type of player. I love the game, I care about the game, my teammates and every single training session."
With several established forwards on D.C. United, how are you looking at you job on this team?
"I was with Dallas for almost a year and a half and it just seemed like a dead end. Not that I was giving up, because if I had to be there for 10 years in the same situation, I'd come and do my job everyday. I always will come in and do my job the best I can. I came here, and yeah, these guys are great players and I'm honored and excited to play with them. I can learn from the forwards. Maybe I feel that I can bring a different style. Alecko, Jaime (Moreno), and Freddy (Adu) are all really good in tight spaces with their feet. I bring more of a power game and can win balls in the air. Maybe a little more 'nitty-gritty,' not that those guys aren't, but I can bring a little more."
What kind of role has coach Nowak talked about you filling?
"Yeah, we talked and he wants me to come in and push those three guys hard. I don't expect him to tell me anything and everything or guarantee this or that. I don't want that. I just want to come in and work hard and, when I deserve to play, I get to play. I know that these coaches do a good job at that. More or less, I'm just looking for the chance. I'm looking for that especially when we're winning. It's awesome to see and hopefully, I can get in and get a little part of that."
What are your strengths as a player?
"I feel like my actual physical strength is an asset. I think in and around the penalty box, I can find the ball, and that's a good thing for a striker, whether it be my head in the air."
What about weaknesses?
"I think at the moment, just because lack of ample playing time every week, is experience. That's not something that's going to hold me back. I'm a fighter and will survive under any circumstance by adapting. I feel that my experience is a little bit of a weakness. And maybe because of the lack of experience, the ability to turn things over in a game (game awareness), not that I can't think fast enough. Usually, once I get into a game, after five or six minutes it's right back to where it should be. Like I said, maybe being able to do that right away and not five minutes later is a weakness, but because of lack of experience."
One of your big challenges was your knee injury from a couple of years ago. How much of a challenge was that so early in your career?
"Yeah. Before that I'd never been hurt or never been injured. Before I had the knee injury, and I'd see people with injuries, I was kind of like, 'Wow, that stinks.' But, when I was in that situation I then realized how tough that situation was. I don't think anyone realizes how tough of a situation that is unless they've actually done it, and I wouldn't wish it on my worse enemy.
"With the surgery it's then an automatic six months. I don't think it's those six months, it's the getting back. The everyday rehab is tough, but I treated the rehab like it was the World Cup. I went in everyday and did the best I could, and that's why I think I've had a great comeback. I think the hardest part in the next six months. I was playing with the Olympic team for a year or so pretty steady and we were playing top teams in the world. I was scoring goals and doing wonderful.
"After the injury, after coming back, you expect to do those things right away. It's grueling. The stuff you used to doing without thinking, you now have to think about. You're put in situations that you now can't do that you could do before. You have to work hard to get that back and I'm staying late everyday to do that. Even though I'm that kind of guy anyways, I'm staying after practice for a couple of hours to work on passing and receiving balls, and not finishing and other things that I'd like to work on. It was definitely one of the worse times in my life. It was tough."
What are your personal expectations for this year?
"Last year, I didn't play at all. I was out for the first half with my knee. The second half was me coming back and I thought I was ready to play. Maybe I was, but looking back on it maybe I wasn't ready. The first half of this season, in Dallas, I did get to play a little bit. My immediate goal is to get some good playing time, get to know the guys, maybe score my first goal, which is always nice for a striker.
"To be honest, as long as we're winning, winning makes everything so much better. I'd love to help the team hoist the cup this year. If I only play a couple of minutes in that ... the ultimate goal is to win the championship and I'll do anything to help make that happen. It's easy to sit here and say there's a lot of things that I wanted to do and I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't thinking about that, but as long as we're winning, my individual stuff doesn't matter."