Peter Nowak, who has guided D.C. United to the MLS championship game in his first season coaching at any level, was named a finalist for the league's coach of the year award yesterday.
The other nominees are Bob Gansler, whose injury-plagued Kansas City team will meet United in Sunday's final at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.; and Greg Andrulis, who led the Columbus Crew on a league-record 18-game unbeaten streak before it was upset by New England in the first round of the playoffs. The winner will be announced Friday at the MLS awards ceremony in Carson.
Nowak, 40, who retired as a player less than two years ago, oversaw United's first winning season in five years and its first appearance in MLS Cup since 1999. He also is largely responsible for the development of forward-midfielder Freddy Adu, 15, who made steady progress throughout his rookie season amid intense public scrutiny.
"It is a tremendous honor," Nowak said. "That said, all credit for United's success goes to the team. They are a special group of players that believe they can achieve great things."
United (13-10-10) is 5-0-1 in its past six matches and 7-1-1 in its past nine. Off for two days, the team will resume practice today before departing for Los Angeles tomorrow.
CONCACAF Cup Awaits D.C.
Saturday's penalty kick victory over the New England Revolution not only earned United a berth in the MLS final; it also moved the club into the 2005 CONCACAF Champions' Cup, the annual regional tournament featuring the top clubs from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Kansas City earned MLS's other berth in the event, which also will include two teams from the prestigious Mexican league, three from smaller Central American countries and one from the Caribbean. The draw will be held early next year in New York, with the two-leg quarterfinals scheduled to begin March 9, a few weeks before the start of the MLS season.
The tournament winner will earn a berth in the FIFA World Club Championship in December 2005 in Japan.
United participated every year between 1997 and 2000 and again in 2002. It won the title in 1998 -- which earned the club a meeting in the Interamerican Cup against Brazil's Vasco da Gama -- and lost in the semifinals in 1997, '99 and 2000.
St. Vincent Can Wait
Ezra Hendrickson, who filled in for the suspended Ryan Nelsen in central defense on Saturday, will be available to play in the MLS final despite an impending World Cup qualifier involving his St. Vincent and the Grenadines national team.
St. Vincent will play at Trinidad and Tobago on Nov. 17, three days after United's showdown with Kansas City. Normally, players rejoin their national teams several days before a qualifier, but "I'll be able to play [for United] and then go after that," he said. "I've never had a problem with my federation as far as getting a chance to play in an important game. They know my priority right now is with my club. We have a good rapport with them."
United continues to have discussions about playing Libya's national team in Tripoli, but time is running out on scheduling an exhibition this offseason, team officials said.
Guatemala-Bolivia at RFK
The Guatemalan national team, which has already secured a berth in the final round of World Cup qualifying, will play Bolivia in an international friendly Saturday night at RFK Stadium, local organizer Elias Polio said yesterday. Tickets are $30. Both teams are expected to be at full strength for the RFK match.