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For D.C. Coaches, the Message Is Consistent

Assistant Soehn Will Fill In for Suspended Nowak as United Tries to Get Back on Track

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page D06

D.C. United assistant Tom Soehn will fill in for suspended head coach Peter Nowak tonight against the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium, but any concern about Soehn having a difficult transition was quickly put to rest yesterday following a light practice.

Soehn was asked to reveal the starting lineup, which is always a closely kept secret when Nowak's in charge.

Assistant coach Tom Soehn, here working behind Freddy Adu, will fill in for suspended head coach Peter Nowak tonight in D.C. United's home game. (Susan Walsh -- AP)

_____United vs. Revolution_____

Where: RFK Stadium.

• When: 7:30 p.m.

• TV: Fox Soccer Channel.

• Radio: WMET-1160 (English); WACA-1540, WKDV-1460, WLXE-1600, WYSK-1350 (Spanish).

• Tickets: $16-$40.

• Records: United 1-1-1, Revolution 1-0-1.

• D.C. Probable Starters (3-5-2 formation): GK Nick Rimando; Ds David Stokes, Bobby Boswell, Mike Petke; MFs Josh Gros, Ben Olsen, Brian Carroll, Christian Gomez, Steve Guppy; Fs Jaime Moreno, Alecko Eskandarian.

• New England Probable Starters (3-5-2): GK Matt Reis; Ds Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, Marshall Leonard; MFs Steve Ralston, Shalrie Joseph, Clint Dempsey, Jose Cancela, James Riley; Fs Pat Noonan, Taylor Twellman.

_____United Basics_____
United Section
_____Revolution Basics_____
Revolution page
_____Galaxy Basics_____
Galaxy page

"Ten players and a goalkeeper," Soehn snapped back, mimicking Nowak's weekly response -- only without the Polish accent.

Nowak will watch tonight's match from a private box on the mezzanine level, following his ejection from last week's game at Columbus for protesting several foul calls, a penalty that carries a $500 fine and one-game suspension. According to an MLS spokesman, Nowak was the first coach to receive a red card since Sigi Schmid was tossed from a Los Angeles Galaxy game in August 2001.

Banned from the locker room before the game and at halftime, Nowak will have to watch from afar and is forbidden from communicating with his staff during the game.

Nowak oversaw yesterday's practice but declined to discuss his suspension or the team's situation tonight, saying through a team spokesman, "It's Tommy's team and he'll handle everything."

Soehn, who turned 39 last week, is in his second year as Nowak's assistant following three seasons as an assistant in Chicago. As a player, he spent many years in indoor soccer leagues before spending four years in MLS, as a rugged defender for Dallas and then Chicago.

He seemed to remember stepping in as head coach while serving as a player-assistant coach for the Wichita indoor squad many years ago. But he said that he, Nowak and the other assistant, Mark Simpson, follow the same philosophy and not much will change tonight.

"Our message is really clear about what we transcend to the players. It's not going to change because Peter is gone," Soehn said. "It's a joint effort and nothing is going to drop off. All the same philosophies are there. We're both strong-minded, strong-willed people."

The players don't expect much change, except that maybe the volume will be turned down a bit.

"Peter and Tommy are similar in their approach, obviously, or else they wouldn't be working together," defender Mike Petke said. "The same things are going to be expected before the game, the same game plan is going to be mapped out.

"There will probably be a little less yelling," he added with a smile, "but it will be just like a normal game day."

Soehn was a candidate for both the Colorado and Salt Lake City head coaching jobs this past offseason, positions that were given to Fernando Clavijo and John Ellinger, respectively. However, Soehn said it would take an irresistible offer for him to leave Washington.

"I'm very happy here and it would take a lot to leave here because this is the best franchise in the league," he said.

Soehn's immediate concern is getting United (1-1-1 in league play) back on track following a grueling stretch in which the team played five games in 14 days and won only once. Last week, United lost to Pumas of Mexico City, 5-0, on the road in the semifinals of the Champions' Cup, then 48 hours later was beaten by host Columbus, 1-0, in a regular season game.

The players seem reenergized following those busy two weeks, and a full week of practice in Washington allowed the team to assess its early-season performances and prepare for a strong New England squad (1-0-1) in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference final.

"That was tough, playing all those games and traveling. After we got back from that, a lot of us were just dead," Petke said. "But we worked hard all week and we'll be ready for this game. It's good to be home and have some sort of normalcy."

Added Soehn, "Getting back to our routine has been important for us."

United Notes: Defender Brandon Prideaux is making steady progress following a hamstring injury but is still not 100 percent. However, he will be available tonight, club officials said. The players will be presented with their 2004 championship rings during a pregame ceremony, and former team captain John Harkes will be honored at halftime for being elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame this week.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company