a bit of a crash course in fitness because of the delay with the national team, but it was good. I got through it, and it was a great result with Trinidad. Anytime you come away with a three points in CONCACAF is big."
Are you worried about too much too quick with your history of injuries?
"I'm getting better at managing myself and listening to my body. My injuries are fine. My main injury, the ankle, is healed. That's the one thing I don't have any problems with. But the wear and tear on the body in training, and the traveling, it's just about me managing myself. Fortunately, the team trusts me to make those types of decisions. I've still got a ways to go to listen to my body fully -- I still push myself a little too much, but I'm learning to do that."
Assuming you will continue to see time with the national team, how much will your absence from D.C. United affect the team, particularly your combination with Brian Carroll in the central midfield?
"I think it's silly to even think about it. First of all, I'm not with the national team, and if that happens we'll deal with it then. We've got plenty of capable guys on this team to come in and do the job. (Things) happens and people leave and people get injured. You fill other guys in. We'll deal with that as it comes."
Last preseason, D.C. United came in looking to create an identity. This preseason you are defending champions. How does that fact make this preseason different?
"It is preseason. We're a little more familiar with who we are. I think last season, coming here, we were a whole new team and had to learn each other. It's nice this year to know the corps of players, not only on the field, but off the field. We have a little bit of an identity now, and it's something we can build on. We can't get complacent and say, 'We're OK and we don't have to push the envelope,' because this league is so up in the air every year. The parity in this league is so great that to repeat as champs is a tough task. If you stay at the same level as the year before, some team is going to come up and win it."
With a three month layoff between MLS Cup and the first game of the season, how do you deal with keeping the momentum?
"It's tough. You build up to this one game, then it's done. You rest for three months, and you enjoy that, and it's almost as if you forget about it. You build your momentum, as I said before, from your corps. You have your players and your identity. It's probably a good idea to forget about last year, and that's a big challenge too, not to rest on your laurels, sort of to speak."
How much of an impact has coach Nowak been getting D.C. United back to the glory of the 1990s?
"Just like the players, he had to learn his trade. That was his first year in coaching, so I'm sure he'll tell you it was great. The thing is that he started out on the right foot with us, because we needed some authority and discipline and he gave us that. We thrived in it, then we got away from it in mid-season. We got lazy. Then we got together and said, 'Look, we've gotten lazy and we've got to get back to that discipline.' He balances the discipline and the fun, and that's important as well, especially with the younger players. You have to let them be free and be themselves. He's done a good job at that. There are times when its soccer and it's strict, but on the down times he's letting us be ourselves."
Is a coach overrated when it comes to making it happen on the field?
"There's a lot to a good coach, especially in this league. Maybe it's not as big of a deal if you're playing at Real Madrid. You've got young guys that are still learning the game and maybe you've got veterans who are getting complacent. You have to gauge each person to get the best out of them. I sure that's what he's going to do this year."
Ryan Nelsen left on transfer. Was he the heart of the team or is this a complete team?
"We had a bunch of clowns last year. It wasn't so much one guy. The guys like Earnie Stewart, (Mike) Petke and Jaime (Moreno) have been through it -- all strong-willed, experienced, charismatic and good leaders. So, don't get me wrong, Ryan is a huge piece with his leadership, and even more importantly what a beast he was on the field, especially in the back. I think that overshadowed his leadership."
"We're moving on. It's one thing to say it, but it's something else to actually do it. We need to forget about last season. We'll just fill somebody in. We've got to get back to it and re-do the whole season. I've been through it before. We won, and then we were in last place. It's a bad way to go. I hope we don't make the same mistake of just letting our guard down and thinking we're better than we are. And realize that last year we had some bounces go our way, and you need that in this league."
Bryan Namoff - Defender
How is preseason going for you and the team?
"It's going well. I was surprised that we came in a lot fitter than I anticipated as a group. I think that's given us a little leeway on our games that we've played. I think that's been an advantage that we've had against our opponents so far. But, it's the same old struggle. Our muscles are tight from the day in, day out grind and routine. But, I think it's been fairly positive getting used to some of the young guys and new guys. It's going good though."
Last year, this team came in looking for an identity, but this preseason you are coming as champions. What are the differences?
"Its true. Last year, we came in not knowing what to expect. We had a new coach -- the third coach in four years for me. I was thinking, 'Here we go again, another year.' But, we came in and I think the organizational factor played a vital role last season. This year everyone is out to get us, and we're going to hold that until someone wins MLS Cup. There's a lot of people that will be running and gunning for us, but it's something that we'll take day by day."
With D.C. United's participation in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup and the Carolina Challenge Cup at the beginning of the season, the coaches have said that they are pushing the team harder at the beginning of the season. Does the added physical and mental pressure worry you?
"I don't think so. I think when we've gone hard, they've tended to give us lighter training on the second sessions each day. Yes, we have to play in about three week's time, so we have to get ready. It's an important task and it's going to be new to everyone. Players like Jaime Moreno have experienced CONCACAF, and it's something they'll teach us, but yes we need to be pushed, because we haven't played yet. Coming into a game of this magnitude is pretty difficult, but it's a challenge we're willing to take."
With Ryan Nelsen leaving, what are your thoughts on how it affects the team and the defense specifically?
"Obviously, there is a void. There's a void with his stellar play -- Best XI in the last two years -- and we're going to be lacking his leadership. It's going to be up to Mike Petke, me and some of the other guys that have been back there day in and day out to pick it up. We need to step up our leadership on the field and become a bigger presence. That's something that I'm willing to take on and I'm ready for, because it's my fifth year in the league and I've become accustomed and secure to my position, and that's what I want to do. I want to take my level up to the next notch."
What are the differences between last year's successful team and those previous teams that were not as successful?
"It almost got to a point where we accepted losing. When that happens, it's so devastating to a team. To change that, we had to change a lot of our mentality, how we thought. I think we saw it in the middle of the season last year when we really starting working for one another. Some of those games on the road, which were frustrating because we lost 1-0 or brought a tie off that we should have won, it hindered our performance going into those games. I think with the new mentality in the organization, this approach we now have as champions, I think we have to act like champions in everything we do, even just coming out to training, or after training. With the new guys coming in, they have to feed on that, because that's something we didn't have when we came in as rookies. I think it's that special focus. I think, if we can do that throughout the season, we have a great chance defending the title."
"Peter's presence on the field, when he was player, he brought that winning attitude and never-say-die attitude, the Eastern European toughness, win mentality, focused ... win-win-win at any cost. It took us a little time, but once it hit, I think it stuck. That's one of our goals is to feed on that and have it take us up to the first game of the season."
How important was Jaime Moreno's return to the team?
"With all the speculation, his back, his other injuries, would he become the player he was in the past, I think it's obvious that he lived up to his potential. I also think that he's got even more to be displayed. You can see it in the training this year. He's still focused and he's getting sharper every day."
Brian Carroll - Midfielder
How is preseason going for you and the team?
"For the team, I think that everybody has stepped in here, worked hard and done what the coaches have asked of them. Everyone has done what has been asked of them and listened to some of the veterans. Individually, I think that I've come in more confident this year, because of the first year of playing under my belt. I've come in knowing what to expect from preseason all the way through the full season. I've been working hard every day to get my game back to where it was at the end of last season, and then build from there. I've had a decent preseason."
The biggest difference between last preseason and this year is that the team is coming as defending champions. How has that affected D.C. United?
"After we won, because not a lot people expected to get to that point, we were happy to be there, we worked hard to be there, and now after enjoying that win through the off-season, you get the sense that people are out to get us. We're going to have to work even harder now to repeat and have a good year. It's going to be a long, tough road and we have to put in the hard work now and throughout the entire year."
With D.C. United being part of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup and the Carolina Cup before the MLS season begins, are you worried about the mental and physical intensity coming too soon in the year?
"I think the CONCACAF Champions tournament is a really good tournament to be in, and we really want to win it. We want to play and perform well in it and get the results that we need. Doing well in that tournament is a priority that we've placed on ourselves to do as well as we can. But, also we've got to keep in the back of our minds that the regular season is important. We can't get ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of games coming up and we have to take the right steps to do as well as we can in each game. I think the coaches do a great job knowing what we can do and when we need to rest. The players are always talking."
What are your thoughts on Ryan Nelsen leaving, and are you happy with the parts around you?
"He was a great player and it's going to be a challenge to get a player as good. I feel that we do have a good corps on the team to perform at a high level if not higher. I sure the coaches and the team have a plan. I haven't heard anything specific about a player coming in, but I'm sure it will be worked out so that the team continues to perform at a high level. People will step up and get the job done. It's just a matter of people stepping into those roles."
You and Ben Olsen developed a good chemistry on the field. If he continues to get called up to the national team how much will that affect you?
"It would be a change with whoever steps in and fills that role. We did develop a good relationship just by playing together. We never had to sit down and discuss it extensively; we just kind of grew through playing on the field. I think whoever plays when he's gone, we'll develop a relationship to get the results we need."
John Dyson is a contributor to DCUnited.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.