Q&A: Back on the field with DCU

VIDEO: The Black-and-Red train indoors before heading to Florida for some warmer temperatures.

D.C. United defender Bobby Boswell:

What’s different? I know there’s a lot that’s the same, but what’s different?
I mean, everything is different. The only thing that’s not different is the game, soccer. It’s the one constant. There are some familiar faces, but they’re all in different roles. I think everyone is a little different. Soccer is the most important thing. It’s the one constant that holds true in all of the changes. You know if you go out and play good ball, it makes everyone happy. We have a whole new group of guys, not just the guys that were already here, but the guys that just came in. It’s going to be a learning experience to get to know everyone and how quickly we can adjust to one another. Defensively, you always want continuity and consistency, but we really don’t have that luxury, so it’s a question of how quickly we can adjust and adapt to one another. With some of the veteran guys, it’s good that we’ve played against each other so much and that we may already understand things about one another and how each other play. Nothing replaces game-time experience with each other, so that’s going to have to happen during the preseason, but I’ve never seen in 10 year with MLS guys come in and do better on the fitness test than some of our guys this year. That tells me that we’re a good and hungry group. People are aware of the severity of the situation in terms of that results are important and are needed from day one. We won’t be out there worrying about being in shape and being on the same level, we’ll be able to just play soccer and get to know our teammates.

You missed out on some lean years here, what is your first take on the challenge here at D,\.C. including the stadium and team in general?
To be honest with you in 2005, D.C. United was looking for a stadium then and I was really involved in it, and it’s upsetting that it’s still going on today, but I don’t really worry about that side of it anymore because I’ve learned it’s out of our hands in some regards. If we put a good product on the field, more people will come out and support us and possibly a new stadium. All I’m focused on is the soccer side of that. I’m not worried about the stuff I was worried about before while I was here. For me it’s about wins and I’ve been having conversations with the guys that have been here for a while and I think D.C has been through a lot of extremes, from success two years ago to pretty bad year last season. Hopefully, we can achieve another extreme, a good extreme and build into a successful season. From the get-go, it’s all about accountability. We need to be accountable in all aspects of the game, first yourself and then your team. It’s about winning, and that’s what we get paid to do. It feels good when you win, when you’re not winning, it’s not good in our sport or our job.

Are you looking forward to playing under Ben?
Yeah, it’s going to be unique. I was so young when I played here, and I did make some mistakes in certain aspects of the game. Ben was always the guy that pulled me aside and he was really good at knocking me down when I thought I was on top, and he was probably the best at realizing when I needed someone to pick me up. I didn’t need a lot of those pick me ups, but when I did, Peter did a good job at it, but Ben did it when the coaches didn’t. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he stepped into a coaching role,, and I’m sure we’ll have some moments this year when we’ll need some pick me ups and hopefully we’ll have some moments where we’re at the top and he’s bringing us down, telling us that we still need to work. That’s a nice problem to have. He’s the coach and I’m the player and I respect him a lot for that.

Has he (Ben) changed? Any initial impressions on that?
Yeah, I mean, it hasn’t been that much time, but he’s always had that commanding presence so it’s not any different from what I see, but you know when you lose games and have bad times, I think that’s when I’ll see what he’s all about. Because obviously when things are good like now, it’s an exciting time to be back and he’s just his normal, charismatic self and he’s obviously a lot of fun to be around. We’ll see as the year goes on, you know, through the roller coaster that is an MLS season how he reacts.

Have you found a place yet? Have you settled down anywhere yet?
I’ve been looking, but it’s kind of tough since we’ve been doing two-a-days and we’re about to leave for preseason in Florida. We’ve got a lot going on and to be honest with you, I’m probably going to rent, so it’s not like I need something right now. I’m not too worried about getting somewhere to live.

D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius:

You’re kind of one of the oldest guys from past D.C. United teams in this group here, what’s your first impression so far?
Well it’s a new season, and you have a lot of new faces and people are really excited to be back and meet everyone. The practices are generally 100 miles an hour, so it’s kind of hard to gauge things, but I think it’s been great to get back and meet new people who have been with successful teams and get to know them.

You’ve been on teams with a lot of foreign players, but this is more of an MLS squad with more MLS players. What’s different?
It does feel really different because everyone has experience in MLS, and when we all get together and talk about it, we all share stories and experiences about their other MLS teams. People know how the league works, and it does have a different feel than years past.

How fresh in your mind and the team's is last year? Is it a motivating factor?
I think a good majority of the guys didn’t experience the lows we had last year. A lot of them didn’t have to go through it, and when I say go through it, I mean it wasn’t an easy year to get through. A lot of the guys like Davy, Bobby and Sean were on playoff teams. They didn’t really have to go through what we had to go through, but that almost helps us guys that did go through it. We’re not always talking about it in the locker room. We’re talking about progressing and getting to know one another so that we do well this year.

I know you guys don't try to focus a lot on the stadium deal, but does the product on the field have an effect on that? On the city/fans accepting a new stadium deal for D.C.?
You’d like to win fans over whether there’s a stadium deal or not. It definitely can’t hurt the situation for us to do well.

Bobby said that it was important from day one to be successful, do you agree?
Yep. It definitely is. I mean, you can look at 2012, and even though we didn’t do great on the road, we won a lot of our home games and that brought in a lot of fans. We won over a lot of fans in 2012, and by the end of the season we were really filling up the stadium.

D.C. United midfielder Perry Kitchen:

How does it feel in the early stages here?
I think the vibes are actually pretty good, we’re only three days into it now, but the level has been pretty good. I personally like all the new people that we have, and I think everyone is excited to turn the page and get things started.

Seeing D.C. recruit from overseas in the past, this roster is more MLS based, it seems like a little different approach than in years past…
Yeah, like I said, I like the moves that we’ve made, and I think it’s something that has made our team stronger. Like I said, you can see it in the level we’ve been at in our first couple of days here. We’ve all been pretty sharp, and it’s exciting. We want to get back to the playoffs.

How did you personally refresh yourself in the offseason?
The first few weeks I took it easy. I got away from the game for a bit and after that for the past month, month in a half, I got after it, and I started looking forward to get this thing going. Last year wasn’t a great year, and I’m just excited to get things going here. I’m pretty sure everyone was chomping at the bit there for a while to get going.

Have you set some personal goals for 2014?
I wouldn’t say that I’ve written them out, but I know where I want us to be this year, and that’s back in the playoffs.