Q&A: Coach Nowak and GM Payne

Head coach Peter Nowak

What are your thoughts about Nick Van Sicklen?
"We only saw him a couple of times, but we got a lot of information from the coach. We felt this was our primary need. We can talk about all these players from the combine and from the draft, but we still have to train them and make them better. We felt that Nick has a great up side. He's similar to Josh (Gros) last year. As I said, it will be a matter of time as to what we can do with him. It's our job to make him better. I hope he's going to develop the same way Josh did."

What need does he fill?
"He's a flank player. He's very versatile. He can play on the left or right, or up front. He's got great speed. He scored a bunch of goals in college. And he's a great kid. That's what our need was in the end."

Were you surprised that he was available at the 19th pick overall?
"I thought that there were a lot of good kids available at that point. But we knew what we wanted to make this team better."

What is Dema Kovalenko's status with his foot injury?
"Hopefully, he's going to be back soon. I know he's going to come back as soon as possible. In four to six weeks, he's going to be ready to go. As I said, bad things happen. We have to figure out what we need to do to get him back on the team. I know Dema personally and he's going to do everything he needs to in order to be ready for the season."

Did Kovalenko's injury influence your decision making in the draft?
"No, not really. We he have Josh and Dema that can play on the wings. Also, we have (Brandon) Prideaux that can play there in our system. We made our choice to make our team better, and Nick was the best choice we had."

What is the status of Mike Petke's contract negotiations?
"We're still working on it."

Are there other players that you are looking to draft?
"Yes. There are a couple I would like to have, but the other teams want them, too. We don't want to just draft a body. We want to make sure we get somebody that's going to help our team."

What do you think about the quality of the draft overall?
"I think it's pretty good. When I watched the final four and the combine, I thought the level of play was pretty good. Everyone wants to show their best qualities and I think the first 20 or 30 players will be good choices. As I said, it's our job to make them better players so that they can make an impact in Major League Soccer."

Do you feel that D.C. United needs to make small tweaks to the team rather than major changes in order to defend the championship?
"We didn't change anything last year when I was hired. It was almost the same team. During the year, we made a couple of moves and brought in a couple of new players. Our job is to train the players, make them better and get them ready for the season. The season is long. It doesn't matter if they are young or old players, we have to make them professionals. I think we did a pretty good job last year and I expect that we're going to do the same job this year."

With the loss of Ezra Hendrickson and Ryan Nelsen during the off-season many expected D.C. United to draft a defender ..."
"Because I play offensive soccer, right?"

What are your thoughts on the team's defense? What are the possibilities of bringing in a foreign player before the season?
"It will be difficult to replace Ryan with the same qualities and mentality and leadership, but we are looking in a couple of different places. We are going to wait until we're sure we pick the right guy. It was the same thing with Christian (Gomez). It's not like just picking someone and hoping it's going to work out. We want to make sure that he's going to be a great asset to our team. We want a player that the team will respect and that the fans will look and say, 'That was a great choice.'"

Is there a definite player that you are looking at or is the team still scouting?
"Yes, there are specific players. There are a couple of options. Like I said, we have to make sure that they are the players we want. We have their names on the list, and we just want to make sure."

Are there any concerns not having Freddy Adu available during the U-20 Championships (June 10-July 2)?
"That's part of it. We just lost Ryan Nelsen, Ezra Hendrickson was away with qualifiers, and it's all part of it. It's our job to make sure that we have enough players and they are ready to step in and play. I assume at that point Freddy will be playing regularly in our team, so it will probably be difficult to fill the spot for him."

Kevin Payne - President/CEO

How do you feel you did with your two draft picks?
"I think we're pretty happy. We were astounded that (Tim) Merritt made it to the 48th pick. In some of our mock drafts, we had him going in the first round, some in the second round. We didn't think he would drop that far. We thought that he was the best passer of all the defenders in the combine. So we're very happy. Also, we really like (Nick) Van Sicklen. He reminds us a lot of Josh Gros. He has a lot of the same kind of qualities on the field. He has the same moves, he's kind of tall and lanky."

"We tried to make one or two moves to get a hold of an additional player, but we weren't able to do it. We weren't going to do anything stupid. A lot of teams get caught up in a sort of 'draft fever' and they just start making deals. They act like the draft is a sort of competition in itself. We weren't going to do anything just to get draft picks."

With the reserve draft upcoming, how will this team continue to build?
"We have three picks in the reserve draft, and we'll use all of those. There are a few other players that might not even go in the reserve draft, and we'll talk to them ... some local products."

Goalkeeper John O'Hara from George Mason?
"The issue with O'Hara is that he's an international player. We'll have to see where we end up on our transitional and full international slots."

Where does the team stand in respects to possibly signing a foreign overseas player?
"It's progressing. We've looked at a lot of defenders and we've narrowed it down to three or four. There is one in particular that we are interested in, but we are waiting for some tapes on him that show him against players that we know. That will allow us to gauge (him) a little better. We're hoping that that one works itself out. There are some people that we respect that recommend that player highly. We've seen him already in some tapes. We'll see what happens with that."

"On the defender front, there are four or five guys, of which two or three are more serious. There's one in particular, based on what we see next, we're hoping is the guy that is the answer."

Is that specific player a free transfer?

Timing is a big issue because D.C. United will be playing in the CONCACAF Champions Cup ...
"Yes, but as long as we have these players together at the beginning of pre-season it will be all right."

Do you expect to be active in the market through trades?
"Right now, there isn't anything on the table. We're pretty pleased with the group we have right now. We tried very hard over the last few years to manage our salary cap in a way that will give us an opportunity to keep a group together. I think that has happened. Obviously, we would have liked to keep Ryan Nelsen, but we didn't have any control over that. I'd be pretty surprised if we make any important trades."

What is the status of re-signing Mike Petke?
"I think we're pretty close. It's always a type of death march with (Agent) Ron Waxman. I would hope that it would be done within a week or two."

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