So D.C. United alerted the gathered media this morning that if we hurried, we could catch several D.C. United players at Velocity Sports Performance in Alexandria, where they've been working out. So Comcast and Channel 4 and WTOP's dulcet-throated Byron Kerr and I showed up at Velocity, the same gym where the DC101 Water Warriors once stood outside, tracking Nick Rimando. The place was pretty empty this afternoon, save for the professional soccer players who were working out in the back: Troy Perkins and Ben Olsen and Devon McTavish and Jeff Carroll and Jamil Walker and Clyde Simms and Nick "The Goose" Rimando. They all seemed to be having a fine time, except for Troy, who was using his eyes-boring-through-steel look.
The cameras, of course, headed towards the always-quotable Ben Olsen, who was wearing an incredibly old, gray, worn-but-not-ripped Michael Jordan-with-his-tongue-stuck-out t-shirt. Velocity gave him a nice, new, red Velocity t-shirt to wear during his TV spots.
"This is an O.G.," he said when I asked how old the t-shirt was. "This is an original piece. You're talking probably '90."
But he was more interested in talking about a different NBA story.
"You want to talk about something, let's talk about the Nuggets," he said. "I don't care if it works, I'm going to be turning in. Basketball, for me, is entertainment. And I know No. 3 is going to entertain me."
But if you're reading this, it's probably because you want to know what D.C.'s players think about Tom Soehn, their new head coach, so here's what they think:
"My initial thought was it was great for all parties," said Ben. "We know Tommy, we know what he expects out of us, and he expects a lot....He's a head coach. He's done a lot of that stuff for a long time. He's going to be fine. I don't know how to explain it, but Tommy will be a great head coach. He was born to be a head coach. He's honest, he expects a lot out of us, and he's going to be as hard-working a head coach as there is in this league."
"He expects and demands everything you have," Troy said. "He wants to win; that's what you want from a coach. Everyone's like, 'Oh, is [the transition] a big deal? I don't think so. I don't think it's a big deal at all."
"He's going to be a great head coach," said The Goose, who, as an ex-DCU'er, had no incentive for false flattery. "He deserves it."
Just like the D.C. execs this morning, the players said they didn't think their team's basic philosophy would change, despite Tommy's background as a defender. Several players said "old-school" was an apt description of their new boss. And since the press conference was on the dry side, I asked players to tell me something about their new coach that the average D.C. fan or blogger might not know.
"He loves showing his old video tapes," Jamil said. "He wants us to score some goals on corner kicks; he always threatens to play his old videos of when he was scoring goals on corner kicks to get us going. He always jokes about playing it, and we always go, 'No, we don't want to watch it.'"
"You don't really want to get too close to Tommy during practice," Clyde said. "He's an older guy so he lacks the speed, but at the same time he's so competitive that he doesn't want to let you get by him. So he'll do just about anything to keep you from doing so."
"He always tells me, 'I'm just going to hit you,' so that's what he does," Jamil said. "Basically, if you get close to him, he's holding you."
"This has nothing to do with anything, but I was going through my desk at home and I found hundreds of old indoor player cards, and I found one of him," Devon McTavish said. "It's in our locker room now. He's real serious [in the picture], and he's got a nice mullet going."
"Tommy's as competitive as Peter is, he wants to win every little thing, every little thing," Troy said. "When we play soccer-tennis in training, he wants to win."
During much of this, Jamil was on Velocity's basketball court, juggling a soccer ball and then periodically shooting it toward the basket with his boot. He made it a whole bunch of times, and hit the rim a whole bunch more, and every time he made it he raised his arms and celebrated, a pro soccer player laughing and running around on a basketball court. It sorta felt like an ESPN commercial. I kept waiting for Gheorghe Muresan to emerge from the locker room and to come up from behind to block Jamil's kick-shot to a fast-breaking duo of Peyton Manning and Gunston while Scott Van Pelt shook his head ironically.
Finally, I figured I should ask which of the guys was most impressive in the offseason workout category.
"Troy," Jamil said. "He's crazy."
"I would have to say Troy," Clyde said. "He's so serious."
"He does everything perfectly," Devon said. "That's probably what's gotten him here....Pretty intense. This is his thing."
"Troy runs circles around everybody," Ben said. "I mean, he's a maniac. He does this year-round. He's as good a pro as I've seen coming through D.C. United, probably in history. He's on a mission. Some guys, after a good year, take a shortcut, but not Troy. He's revving it up."
I asked Velocity's Director of Athlete Development, Walt Cline, about these reports.
"He's very intense, very focused," Cline said. "He listens to every small bit of information you can give him to try to get better. That's the truth....I don't have any problem coming in on a Sunday for a guy like that, for a guy who works that hard. I don't have any problem at all."
Oh, and in your More-Caps-United-synergy alert, it turns out that Clyde Simms has actually palled around with some Caps. He's friends with a young woman who lives in the same downtown building as Brian Sutherby and Steve Eminger, right near the V.C. They've hung out socially a few times and Suds and Emmy have gotten tickets for Simms; he's been to four or five games this season, even though he said he was "indifferent" about the sport before meeting the Caps.
"I love going to the games," he said. "I understand [the sport] from playing video games and stuff. People ask me, 'Do you know offsides?' and I'm like yeah, I've got it down."