Tony Quinn/MLS

Q&A with Nowak, Perkins

Peter Nowak - Head Coach

What were your reasons for using four defenders in the Colorado game?

"It wasn't really four in the back after a couple of minutes. We pushed Bryan Namoff up to the defensive midfielder spot, and it worked pretty good - Dema was on the left and Josh Gros on the right and Earnie was behind Jaime and Freddy. I think we're pretty set with the system we want to play. Of course, we're limited right now. We don't want to make any excuses. We just want to make sure that our game remains the same. We will make adjustments and the adjustments did all right."

"We played in Colorado after a set of three games, in altitude, in one week, a very tough week. Like I said in the press conference after the game, 'Enough with the posts and crossbars!' We've had bad luck, but we have to keep going and forget about this thing and relax. Freddy's break away might have changed the game completely."

As you said it was a tough week. How do you get the team mentally prepared to continue its good play for the upcoming games?

"I would say that the first twenty minutes, before we got the goal in Colorado, it was pretty significant and the players were still thinking of the L.A. game. But, after that, we got the goal. Josh did well on the left side, Earnie moved back over to the right side, and we were all right. There were things like forgetting the overlaps, forgetting to keep the ball and move it a little faster. There was still time. There were a couple of times that we were too slow moving the ball out of the back, which is why we cannot open the field."

"We have to be patient and keep going. The results will come, I'm sure about it. I'm really proud about this team putting their heads together and fighting to the last minute. Ronald's chance, then Freddy's post, and Dema's post, Josh Gros' cross to David Stokes and he missed it by three or four inches...You had ninety minutes of game. I would say their mental state is pretty high. Of course, the results are frustrating, but we're not going to change anything and we're going to keep going."

"When we go into a stretch like that, it's important to keep our minds fresh for the next game. That's how we're going to prepare. Benny (Olsen) and Bobby (Convey) will be back for us on Saturday. We can still use Kevin Ara. Eliseo Quintinilla is pretty much back. Thiago Martins is working hard and will be back. He's working very hard and he will be fighting for a spot. The people all have to keep fighting for the spots. Nobody has a guaranteed spot, including the goalkeepers."

What was your thinking behind starting Perkins over either Rimando or Warren?

"We felt like he needed a break. Mark Simpson made the decision. This is his field. He spends most of the time with the goalkeepers, and he knows how they feel and how they are reacting. Nicky had a difficult night on Wednesday. He (Simpson) had a difficult call, and I think he made the right call. Troy was pretty sharp. The goals against us...there was nothing he could do. You could argue offsides or not, but it was a pretty difficult ball to get to. The first goal, of course, was from two or three yards out, and he couldn't do much about that one. Mark will make another call on Saturday. We'll see what's going to happen."

David Stokes also saw significant minutes over the last two games. Are you comfortable with his level of play?

"Yes, I'm comfortable with him starting. What he needs to understand is that he needs to be sharper. He needs to be sharper and close people down faster - that's how we gave up the first goal. The cross from the right side to the left to Mark Chung was obvious, and it was going to come, it was easy to predict. He should know what he's going to do when he gets the ball. Chung is such a good player, he can make it happen, and David is supposed to know that. Today in practice, we started working on making him better at it. It's the same with all the young players - Freddy (Adu), 'B.C.' (Brian Carroll). They're going to get minutes, they're going to make mistakes and they're going to learn from their mistakes. If they don't play, we're not going to know what the mistakes are and where those mistakes are coming from. I'm confident with David that sooner or later he will understand."

"The big issue with him is that it's one game he plays very well and one game is weak, and we end up on a roller coaster. With especially Freddy, Esky (Alecko Eskandarian), B.C. and David Stokes, and even the goalkeepers. We're looking for consistency at every position. Whoever brings that to us is going to play. But, it's not like we're going to jump from tree to tree, as if 'This one is good, this one is the next one, and the next.' We still have to adjust to what is best in the long-term for these guys. If you're not going to play them always, we still need them to learn. I think last weekend is going to be very helpful. In the long run, Stokes can play. He's very strong and he can play the ball on the ground and move forward. We'll see what happens."

In the last two games, D.C. United has given up six goals. Just how valuable is Ryan Nelsen to this team?

"There's no question. I don't want to say Mike Petke isn't valuable to our team, but Nelsen brings a different approach to this team. He was in the All-Star game and was one of the League's 'Best 11' (last season). Ryan is a big part of this team and we're going to miss him for a couple of weeks. I'm sure we can cover for him."

With Bobby coming off injury and Josh Gros playing well, have you thought about how you are going to deal with that situation?

"I don't know. I just hope that at some point Bruce (Arena) is going to make the right decision about that - who is more valuable on the left side. Josh did very well. We know that he's in great shape. He's never taken a day off practice in four months. He's a great example for our rookies. You can put Josh Gros on the left or right side and you know what you're going to get - consistency. Every time you put him on the field you know what you're going get. He's very clean on the ball, very dangerous, works hard on the defensive end, and he works his butt off closing down, going forward and helping people out around him. I hope we get to that point of not knowing who is going to play. That's what we're looking for."

With Ryan Nelsen leaving for National Team duty with New Zealand, D.C. United will be down to four defenders. Are you worried about the lack of depth at the back?

"I truly believe that the balance of the team is all right. It's not the best with what we do, but it's the situation we've got and we're not going to complain about it. We just want to make the best of every week with what we have got, even if it means Troy Perkins, or David Stokes, or Freddy up front or on the left wing. We'll keep looking for possibilities, but we aren't really out shopping. I don't think any trades would be worth it. I strongly believe that we have to continue with what we have because the potential is very good."

"Look at the standings and you can see what's going on around the League. Everyone can beat everyone. If you win two or three games in a row, you jump up. We're not in bad shape but we're pretty frustrated about the points, not about how we play, but just the points. It's about the winning mentality and building it."

Troy Perkins - Goalkeeper

Were you surprised at getting the start Saturday?

"Pretty excited actually. I don't want to say shocked or surprised by it. I've worked pretty hard to at least earn some respect from the coaches to get that chance. But, I was definitely a little surprised that it came this early in the season. I expected to get some games in the Open Cup or some of the exhibition games here and there. I was pretty pleased, and pretty excited about it. I didn't sleep much the night before - the game was already going through my head at that point. I wasn't overly surprised, but it was a bit shocking."

How did you get the word from the coach?

"It was one of those things where Mark said that they'd been talking about it. Nothing is ever for sure until you get to the field and they decide, but he said to me, 'Make sure you keep yourself ready mentally and everything else. Make sure you're ready to go'."

Do you feel like you did enough to get the start this weekend in New England?

"I thought I did okay. Obviously, I didn't do enough and we still lost 2-1. In that respect, I didn't do my job the way I should. I didn't have any big mistakes, but I can improve a lot on some little things. It's up to what I do this week (in training). We're all in the mix this week. That's one thing I like about this club - when I signed the developmental contract they said it didn't matter. They said if I worked hard, and things here and there, you never know. They never said that I wouldn't get games and would sit on the bench all year."

All three of the goalkeepers are very tight. However, this situation could create some discomfort between you three. Is that the case here?

"There's always been good competition there. I think this raises the level because it has to be perfect everyday, day in and day out. No one has been named the starter for the rest of the year, or at even for this week. You can tell it's a little tougher this week than it was last week."

What did Warren and Rimando say to you when you found out you were starting?

"They gave me their support. The camaraderie is there between the goalkeepers. You don't find that with the field players as much, but with the goalkeepers it's a union. We're behind each other no matter what."

How were you discovered by D.C. United?

"I was at the MLS combine back in January. I wasn't drafted and I was a little disappointed with that. But, Dave Kasper called my agent as soon as the draft was over and asked that I come in for a look. I guess it was through those guys as to how it was worked out."

Is this a career opportunity?

"Yeah, it's a big opportunity. I don't think it's quite hit me yet about how big it is. You've just got to keep working hard and not let down. Even now that I've gotten a chance, I've got to work harder to get it again. Now they dont expect anything less than that."

John Dyson is a contributor to His interview column runs every Wednesday.

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