Peter Nowak's first season at the helm has been challenging.
Tony Quinn/MLS/

Q&A with Nowak, Hendrickson

Peter Nowak - Head Coach

What was behind the decision to waive Doug Warren?
It wasn't an easy decision. We are trying to reward the good performances by Troy (Perkins), because we think he deserves it. We talked with Doug and gave him some options to be a part of this organization. But he made the decision that it would be easier for him to go and try to find a new club. It was his decision (to go on waivers), and he's going to try his luck. I'm sure one of the MLS teams is going to get him.

What was behind the thinking of signing Ezra Hendrickson?
'Ez' brings depth to our defensive line. He plays for his national team as a sweeper and a man-marker. From that perspective, we're glad to have him. Plus, in the past couple of years he played in L.A. as the right wing and right back. He still has speed. He's a great addition. He's a great guy. The guys like him very much in the locker room. We still need to work with him and the guys in the back on the tactical stuff. But, as far as his first game, the one in Dallas, I was happy with his play.

He said that he naturally plays out of right defense and adds to the attack. With Ezra's addition are you thinking of possibly changing to a four back system?
No, he also plays as a marker. He played with Mike (Petke) and Bryan Namoff in the game against Dallas. There were a couple of misunderstandings in the first half. But, in the second half it was pretty good. He was with us for what, three days? His preparation was who is marking, how are we going to prevent a couple of things, and how we're going to switch and shift. As far as that, he's a smart player. As I said, with his national team he plays as a sweeper, a 'libero,' and a marker. He gives us a lot of options on the right side now.

From your perspective, does it look as though Alecko Eskandarian's recent perform shows that he has turned the corner and now is a established player?
No, the question is, 'How long is he going to stay consistent?' That's the most important thing for all of the guys - Alecko, Freddy (Adu), Brian Carroll. He has to be consistent. I don't have a problem playing him ninety minutes or playing Freddy ninety minutes if they are going to play up to their potential.

After the game Saturday, Freddy Adu spoke about the frustration of not starting or getting enough playing time.
Alecko said the same thing a couple of weeks ago. The most important thing is that Josh Gros came in the second half and changed the game in two minutes. It doesn't matter if its two minutes, twenty minutes, or ninety minutes, you have to make a difference. As I told you, I have nineteen players and only eleven spots. It's been six months and you know me. I want to win every single game. Kevin Ara's substitution was alright in the 93rd minute - 30 seconds or one minute - we wanted to kill the clock. But if you're going fifteen or twenty minutes you expect that someone will make a difference. That's what I expect of players like Freddy (Adu), Esky and Josh Gros, to win the game for you. The most important thing is what kind of mentality are they going to bring to this game. Do you want to just be a player, or do you want to make a difference?

Do you have a different approach to young players between being a team captain in your playing days and now as a head coach?
I normally want to clean the water right away, no matter what the situation is. If it's with Earnie Stewart, with Freddy Adu, or Ryan Nelsen, it doesn't matter who it is. The most important thing is that we work in an honest way, from the top management to the bottom. If we have any issues, we want to clean it up right away. To me, it's not a problem. I love to talk to them right away. I hope they respect the way I'm treating them, because I feel like I'm treating them very fair.

Has Freddy Adu expressed any frustration?
No, we've talked and I know him. He has a lot of stuff going on in his life. Sometimes he's tired and he doesn't perform on the training field. When he doesn't perform on the training field sometimes it becomes a chain reaction. But, I still try to keep him positive. We still talk with him so he's concentrating on what he's doing. If he's doing that his teammates are going to respect him, the environment is going to better, and everything is going to be fine. He's still a very young kid. He's like that. He'll forget about that article in ten minutes. It's like that and we have understand and respect his way. We have to keep talking to him and keep him positive. I still feel that he's a very special player. I know that Freddy understands my way and how we're working.

D.C. United plays the Metrostars and there has always been a special rivalry between the teams, particularly expressed by the fanatics of each club. Do you feel that this is a 'special' game?
What do you think? Every home game is a special game for us. After this weekend's results, you can see what's going on around the League right now. We talked about it in the locker room. It is a special game for us. We lost in New York and we shouldn't have lost that game. We played very good soccer. It is another League game which can bring us to our goal, which is having a good record after fifteen games.

Ezra Hendrickson - defender

What are your impressions of coming to D.C. United?
First of all, I'm happy to be here and happy to get this opportunity to get back into the League with a club with this tradition. D.C. has been a top club. The recent years haven't been as successful as when the League started. But they have a good team and they are on the right track. I'm coming in at a point where they are playing very good. There have been some unfortunate breaks, some ties that could've gone either way. I'm happy to be here. I've been here for a week now and I've gelled well with the players. I know a lot of the players from before, being in the League and playing against them. They've welcomed me.

When did D.C. United first make contact with you about joining the team?
I was in my country (St. Vincent & the Grenadines) during World Cup qualifying against Nicaragua. I got the call saying that they were interested. I had no hold ups about that once that I knew they were interested. Like I said, it is a team that I'm happy to be playing for. Then negotiations started, within a week or so I had them call me here, when I was in the islands, and we negotiated via an agent. That's how I made it here.

Have you talked with coach Nowak about your role on the team?
Yeah, one of the things that I wanted to talk with Peter when I was first contacted was what was going to be my role? Where exactly did he see me playing? What was expected from me? Pretty much I'm here as a defender. They play three in the back. I'm accustomed to playing a right back in a four back system, but I let him know that I can play one of the three positions, and that's what I played in Dallas. The usual overlapping runs that I'm accustomed to making are not going to be much more, but I'm content with that because I'm here to be one of the three in the back that mainly stays home. There are going to be those occasional runs when the situation presents itself. But it's not going to be like that where I'm attacking a lot. I'm happy with that because we have five or six guys that can do that - we have Earnie (Stewart), Bobby (Convey), Jaime (Moreno) and Esky (Alecko Eskandarian). Those guys are mainly attacking guys. If I can just stay back with Petke, or Nelsen, or Brandon (Prideaux), or whoever is the defense, I'm content to do that. Basically, he told me that I'm going to come in and be a defender and play one of the three positions in the back, which I'm happy to do.

(On the national team) I play wide on the right. But, against Nicaragua, for the first game I played in central defense in a back four because our central defender was missing. I'm able to play anywhere across the back basically.

Are you still in the prime of your career?
It's hard to say. I'm 32 years old, but I don't feel 32 years old. I've been fortunate that I've never had an injury that kept me out for long periods of time. I've kept my body pretty healthy. With God's blessings I've been healthy in that sense. I don't think I'm past my prime. Like I said, I'm 32 years old but I don't feel 32. I've still got some time in me and I feel like I can still give some quality time.

Did you sign a multi-year contract?
It was more than to just finish the year. It was nice to know that they weren't interested in just fixing a hole for 2 or 3 months. They were interested in me and they saw that I could help them for the next couple of years.

How much time do you anticipate missing because of CONCACAF qualifying?
I was looking at the calendar and I'm going to miss a couple of games because we moved on to the semi-final rounds. That can be sorted out. I've never had a problem with club and country as far as getting a release. And I think Peter, having played internationally, knows the demands on players. I think it should be fine. According to the schedule, I'll probably be missing two games before the playoffs start.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a player?
I think one of my strengths as a player is my ability to read the game. I'm a very knowledgeable player. As a defender, I'm able to sometimes read the pass before it's made, and put myself in position not so much to make tackles, but to cut passes out. I'm 32 years old now and that helps a lot because the forwards in this League are very fast, and if I can be a step ahead of them, and put myself in position to win the ball before I make a tackle, that's one of my strengths. I'm fairly decent with the ball. Early in my career, in my college ball, I played forward and I still have some of that - attacking abilities and stuff. All in all I think my ability to read the game and cut passes out is one of my strengths defensively.

My weakness, being a taller player, sometimes I'm not the quickest guys with the first two or three steps. Guys who have a lower center of gravity have that advantage. But, over ten paces I can catch up with guys. One of my weaknesses have been that my first step hasn't been that quick because of my body type. I'm a taller player and I'm just not as explosive as a shorter player.

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