Q&A with Van Sicklen, Simms, Stokes
East Carolina University, then Richmond, now D.C. United. How has the transition been so far?
"It's been great. I'm enjoying the team a lot. All the guys are really good guys. Your teammates make things much easier. The speed of the game is a little different soccer-wise, but I'm starting to get used to it."
What specifically has been the biggest challenge in the transition?
"Physically, it's about the same as the A-League. The speed and knowing what you want to do with the ball before you get it has to be faster in MLS."
Did you expect to start in the Columbus game last weekend?
"Yes, Peter told me before the game in Mexico that I should be mentally ready for the Columbus game, probably the full 90 minutes. I thought I did all right. There were some things that I thought I could do better, but that will come."
What types of things?
"I lost the ball a couple of times at key times playing that defensive midfield spot. I'll get better at that."
Is defensive midfield your natural position?
"Yes. I did play central midfield all through college, and with my club team growing up. I was an attacking mid with Richmond. But, defensive mid is a little different, but I like it."
What is it like having experienced guys like Ben Olsen, Brian Carroll, and Guppy around? What are they passing along to you?
"They gave me some good words before the game and stuff like that. They gave me a lot of confidence in myself and that helps a lot. But, just watching those guys everyday, having them around, is a great learning experience."
What has coach Nowak talked to you about? What type of role does he expect you to fill?
"I haven't really talked to him about it. However I can help the team, I'm happy to do so."
What are your expectations for the season?
"I think we have a great team. I'll help it out anyway I can. As long as we're playing well and winning, I'll be happy."
Do you feel any pressure by the fact that you were picked out by U.S. national team Coach Bruce Arena?
"Yes, I do. I think about it a little bit. But, once you get on the field you don't think about it and just play. I want to prove him right."
David Stokes - Defender
How are things going for you in general?
"Not too bad. It was a tough stretch we just went through as a team. Fitness-wise, I think we're all holding up."
This is your third season. In the past two you have seen limited time, often not under the best conditions. Now you find yourself starting. What are your thoughts on that?
"It's unfortunate in the manner that I'm getting my opportunity because two of my teammates, Bryan (Namoff) and Brandon (Prideaux), are out, but I'm just trying to take advantage of it. I think I'm heading in the right direction right now."
From your play in the recent games it looks like you are starting to move to the next level. What do you credit that to?
"I got a lot of playing time in preseason. That allowed me to get comfortable with my teammates, and they got some confidence in me by seeing how I play. I feel much more comfortable out there. I've matured, I guess. Going through the last two years helped me mature to this point and now I'm building on that."
Primarily you are playing with Bobby Boswell, a rookie, and Mike Petke, a veteran. How is the defensive back line meshing as a unit?
"I think it's pretty solid. We've got good communications and understanding. There are still a few things to work out. However, I think on the field we're playing well as a unit, pretty solid. The other teams aren't getting too many chances. Unfortunately some of the games haven't gone our way yet."
What have the coaches talked to you about?
"They are coming to me making sure that I don't have any questions about what we're doing. They want to make sure I'm clear on things. We're working on communications, and at the same time working on the field problems."
What are your expectations?
"I just want to excel. I would like to aspire to play in Europe, because that's where the best soccer is. Immediately, I want to improve and help the team. I want to start and help the team and personally improve. I want another championship for this team."
John Dyson is a contributor to DCUnited.com.