- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

Tom Soehn officially replaced Peter Nowak as coach of D.C. United yesterday, and at a press conference at RFK Stadium he promised to lead a smooth transition for the club.

“Obviously there’s not much of a change going to take place,” Soehn said. “I’ve been here. With the experience the players have had with me and my experience with the players, the transition is going to be easy.”

Soehn, 40, came to United with Nowak from Chicago in 2004 and served as Nowak’s assistant for the last three seasons.

United president Kevin Payne had high praise for Soehn, whom he noted had been involved in every major decision made by the club in the last three years, including the decision to send Freddy Adu to Real Salt Lake earlier this month.

“Tommy is extremely organized, meticulous in his preparation and has a good eye for talent and how talent fits together, and the balance between talent and hard work,” Payne said. “He is very frank and very open with players and dispassionate in the way he does that. The players will know where they stand with him. They might not like where they stand but they will know.”

Soehn, who played professionally as a defender for 10 years and coached six years as an assistant with the Fire and United, is United’s fifth coach in the 12-year history of the club.

Soehn takes over after Nowak, 42, was named as assistant coach of the U.S. under 23 men’s national team — which serves as the Olympic team — under coach Bob Bradley. Nowak also will assist Bradley with the full national team that has a home date against Denmark next month.

United’s goalkeeping coach Mark Simpson will remain with the club “in a greater capacity” and assist Soehn, who said more assistants will be added.

“I think Tommy is a great fit for us,” United defender Bobby Boswell said. “He has the players’ respect and everyone is willing to buy into what he believes in.”

After weeks of “agonizing” over a decision, United officials knew that Nowak was leaving the team last Friday. Over the weekend United technical director Dave Kasper and Payne spoke with Soehn, and on Monday the decision was made.

While Nowak saw the game as a creative attacking midfielder, Soehn views the game from a defender’s viewpoint.

“I’m a real advocate of making sure our forwards defend and make it easier for everyone behind them,” Soehn said. “That might be the defender in me, because I’ve seen some lazy forwards in front on me not doing the work.”

Nowak, whose contract ran out this month, was made a new offer by United but according to Payne wanted to be in a situation to spend more time with his family in Florida.

The club was prepared just in case Nowak didn’t return but was worried when Soehn was being courted by other MLS clubs.

“My biggest concern was losing both of them,” Kasper said. “I felt Tommy had opportunities to move on.”

Like Nowak, who came from Poland after playing in Europe, Soehn also has a strong European background. He was born in the United States, but his father is from Romania and his mother is German. Soehn grew up speaking German.

“They sent me to German school and I starting speaking English, work that out,” said Soehn, who spent last weekend with Nowak in Florida.

One of the first tasks for Soehn is making sure the team has a backup for United goalie Troy Perkins. Goalie Jay Nolly, 24, acquired in the trade for Freddy Adu from Real Salt Lake, is on a two-week trial with Scottish giant Celtic, and despite numerous efforts by United’s staff to contact him in recent days, he has not responded to calls.

As for the departing Nowak, Payne said: “Peter more than justified our faith in him. He restored our club to where it should be. He restored discipline and pride.”

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