From your perspective how is the team fairing at this point in time?
I still think we're growing together. I'm happy that we're not peaking now. Obviously, you want to peak at the right time of the year. We have a long ways to go with understanding when to pressure, when to drop in, when to stay compact, how to conserve energy and when to extend out and really put pressure on teams. It's still an early process for us. Hopefully when the time comes we'll be at the top of our game at that point.
What was the one significant change that you and head coach Peter Nowak brought to this team, and has it made the impact that you thought it would?
I think we're a much more disciplined team. I don't know that they had that. Peter and I came from situations where everything was about discipline - how you stay compact, how you pressure and everybody relying on everybody else. I think we put a lot of demands on the guys early in the year, and I think they responded very well.
The obvious problem for the team is lack of scoring. What is your assessment in that area?
When I sit and watch games and evaluate, I think there's still some little things missing, such as quality runs in the box. Are we getting into the guy's face? That's all things we can get better at, and address in training to sharpen things up. The final third of the field means the most and we need to do better in those situations.
With the injuries and the national team call-ups, do you feel that the team needs to fill the final full roster spot soon?
You're always looking to make your team better, and if the right guy comes along we'll look to fill that. Obviously, every team is looking to make themselves better. If the opportunity comes along we will.
What about the team's morale?
It's always frustrating when you feel that you were the better team and you don't come out with the points. That's one area that Peter and I are very honest with the players, and they are very honest with us. It's very important that we have that good locker room mentality, and know that everyone can rely on each other. We air things out when there are problems. Of course it's discouraging when the team doesn't get the points. The thing that you have to remember is that you have to put your shoes on the next week and go back to work and do the things you did right and work on those that you didn't do right.
Jaime Moreno was big acquisition for the off-season. What has he brought to this team?
He does a good job holding the ball for us and creating situations. I think we're still looking for the right compliment for him, as far as running off of him. He's been a great asset to us since we got him. His mentality is great and he has worked hard, and it shows on the field.
What are the midfield's strengths and weaknesses?
Obviously Brian (Carroll) is doing a good job snuffing out plays. It doesn't have to be a tackle, but he wins a lot of balls for us. I think the thing about him is that he plays a lot of those balls forward instead of sideways, and that continues to improve. Last game I don't know how many times he found Josh (Gros) in a forward spot. I think our ability to win balls and play forward has improved, and we have to keep that going because that starts our attack."
On the defensive line, just how important is Ryan Nelsen and how much will his injury affect D.C. United?
Every player plays an important part to this team. Obviously, being the captain, his role is even bigger. Not just because he's a vocal leader, but he's a leader by example. He exemplifies what it means to be a captain. Anytime he's out you're going to suffer. But, that leaves the door for other guys to take on new roles and mature in ways that will develop those qualities. He's a big loss, but you can't concentrate on the losses and you have to move on, hoping other guys will pick up those challenges.
With the challenges facing the team, is this a key point of the season in your opinion? What can you do as coaches to prepare the team for the games ahead?
Overall they are professionals. The guys that have been there know what has to be done week in and week out. The parity in the league means that every game is a big game. If you look at the finishes throughout the last couple of years it comes right down to the last game as to who makes the playoffs and who doesn't. I think you take urgency to every game that you play in. If you do a lot of the little things right the games take care of themselves. We just keep pushing forward to get those things right. Eventually, if you come out on the right side of tackles, and who outworks who, the results come.
Ben Olsen - midfielder
With the season being one-third over, what is your evaluation of the team at this point in time?
Well, I think it has been a bit of a roller coaster again. At times it has been really good soccer. Finishing has been the main downfall of the team this year. We need to get that better, but there are a lot of things to look forward to, mainly the style of play. Some of the games we've put together have been really good, but the finishing just wasn't there. You can say that for only so long, 'The finishing is not there.' There are little things we can do to make that better. It's not so much that we don't put it in the goal, the runs can be better, and the last ball can be better. Every aspect of the final third can be better. Hopefully we'll get that better, and once we do it will help us through the rest of the season. We're only one-third of the way through you said? It feels like we should be in the playoffs already.
Since day one of pre-season coach Nowak stressed the physical fitness part of the training. What positive and negative impacts has that been on the team?
It's an honest workout out there, good work. We're starting to tighten things up even more now that it is summer to get that base fitness for the long haul. A lot of guys are getting better with the weight lifting. I think these injuries were a wake up call to a lot of people to get stronger and to get fitter. That's one way to look at it, and another is to look if we worked too hard. I don't think so. I think it's more that we got a little lax on the lifting, myself included, and luck. That and bad luck. Professional athletes get hurt.
What about the positives and negatives of the discipline that coach Nowak implemented with the team this season?
I don't think it's that big of a deal. A lot of it is just common courtesy - cleaning up after yourself and things like that. Does it relate on the field? Sure, it helps a little bit. I don't think it's that big of a deal on the field. But, I think it's important as a club, and as teammates to do things like that. To keep that discipline from the locker room onto the field is always ... we know how to be disciplined on the field. That's what we do. We've learned it all our lives.
What needs to be done to get the finishing up to par?
As I said, it's a combination of things - the final ball, maybe shooting more, maybe just blatant finishing our chance. There isn't one thing that sticks out in my mind. There have been a lot of instances where we just haven't finished the ball, or connected with the cross, or one too many passes or the shot was off. We just need to do better in the final third.
With the injuries and the current record, how is the team's morale at the moment?
It's fine. These summer months are tough. You're running around and your weight is down. It's a little bit of a grind. But, we're positive. And fortunately these other teams haven't run away with it in the Eastern Conference. So, we feel fortunate about where we're at numbers-wise in the table. We'll be okay. We just have to get on this winning streak that we keep talking about, but it's just not coming around.
Have you talked with (U.S. national team coach) Bruce Arena about a possible return to the national team?
No, I haven't talked to Bruce at all. They're doing fine. He's got his guys right now. I don't think right now is my opportunity, but there's always that opportunity. He knows who I am, and he knows where I'm at. If I start doing my job on the field, and get fit, and don't have so many injury issues, I think he'll give me a sniff some day.