and I appreciate that. The whole group worked very hard. It's just been fantastic. The second preseason, in Hawaii, there were a lot of distractions. But still they all came together at the end of that camp. Much of it was that they were mentally tired, not physically. The third camp everyone will be excited because of the season being so close. As I said, there are 11 spots open for the starting 11. Everyone is going to be working that much harder."
What do you know about the competition this Wednesday?
"We know that they have Fabian Taylor, who played for the Metrostars last year. Like I said, the most important thing is we don't worry about the competition. We have to make our job easier by knowing that every game is important. Even in the practice games and the scrimmages like today in practice are important to me, because that lets me see who is ready and who is not. We do have to square away a couple of things tactically, but we're going to be ready."
This series is a home and home with the away goals rule in effect. Does that change your strategy at all?
"From my end, there is really no big difference between playing the first leg against New York, like we did in the first round of the playoffs last year, and playing Jamaica. The crucial point, no matter what competition, even in World Cup finals, playoff games, European Champions League, or UEFA Cup, the first game is crucial. It's always like that. So we're going to do our job, and they'll be looking back saying, 'We had to do better in the first game. Now we have to come up with something special in the second game.' The first game is crucial and we're going to treat it with respect. But we'll be looking to win the first game."
"Advancing to the second round is our goal. We'll have to see the condition of the players, the condition of the field, and then adjust to the situation. It's always going to be like that. But, I'm not going to slow down. If it's 3-0 or 4-0, I'm going to be looking for another three goals. This is how you send a message and how you win the game. It's not going to be easy, for sure."
Do you feel that the corps group of returning players is good enough this year to win the awards, or do you feel that this team definitely needs to bring in another player or two?
"We are not looking just for a body. We are not looking for players just because of their name. We need players who are going to be in the locker room and can lead. We are looking for players who want to be part of the team. We don't want anyone who is going to be above the team. We're looking in different places and at different players. The search is going to continue. We're getting closer to making our decision. I assume that in the next two or three weeks we'll select the players that we want."
"There has been a lot of discussion about Ryan (Nelsen) and Earnie (Stewart), but we cannot clone them. That's the point. We're not going to find a guy with the same qualities as 'Nellie' or Earnie. We want to find someone that has similar qualities, but someone who is going to give us something special -- something special in the locker room and special on the field. As I said, the search is going to continue, and then we'll make a decision."
Ben Olsen - Midfielder
From your point of view, how has winning the championship affected coach Nowak coming into this preseason?
"He's a lot more serious, more intense this year, because he doesn't want us to rest on our laurels. And that's a good philosophy. This year it will be human nature for us to relax and lay back a little bit. It happens all the time. It happens at the top too, but he's not going to let it happen to him. He's going to keep us sharp and work us hard and push us further than last year."
What do you know about your opponents on Wednesday?
"Nothing. I know that they have Fabian Taylor who used to play for the Metrostars. He's a good player, a dangerous player. We haven't discussed them too much. Right now we're focused on our game and trying to get ourselves sorted out defensively. Hopefully the offensive stuff will come with that. Right now, the important stuff for the game is that we're sound and the rest will take care of itself."
You have international experience both with the club and on the national team and several of the players on D.C. United do not. Being a veteran what are you going to tell them to prepare them for these games?
"Whatever I tell them isn't something that will help, its something they have to go through. It's something you have to experience. You learn through competition. There's that 'country' competition feeling too -- that U.S. vs. Jamaica competition -- that makes it a little bit more intense than your average game. It's something they are going to have to go through. I trust that they are going to be ready. I think they are very excited to be in this competition. It's a great competition. We were fortunate enough to win these types of games before. I feel fortunate enough to have been a part of it. Hopefully, we can win the first round and go on playing in the other international competitions."
How important to the team is it that D.C. United does well in this Cup?
"It's huge. These competitions are so big. Not only for CONCACAF, but it leads to the World Club Championship, that's the ultimate goal, but we have a couple of challenges before that with Jamaica and probably some Mexican teams. If we can get by that, it puts MLS on the map even further. We're making progress. We're getting more looks at our guys and our national team is getting more looks. This is just another way of pushing U.S. soccer further."
John Dyson is a contributor to dcunited.com.