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Coaching carousel raises the bar higher
December 20th, 2006 8:05PM



Well, those rumors a few months back about Peter Nowak leaving D.C. United and being replaced by assistant Tom Soehn turned out to be true. Sort of.

Nowak is indeed leaving D.C. United, but not for another MLS team or a club or national team in Europe. A press conference is scheduled for Thursday at which team president Kevin Payne and technical director Dave Kasper, according to a source who did confirm details, will announce that Nowak as taken a post as U.S. Soccer assistant coach, with D.C. assistant Tom Soehn assuming the D.C. top job.

The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, broke the story Wednesday afternoon. D.C. United director of communications Doug Hicks declined comment, as did New York-based agent Ron Waxman, who represents Nowak, Soehn, and national team head coach Bob Bradley, who was named national team interim head coach and Olympic head coach less than two weeks ago.

Nowak came to MLS in 1998 to play for Bradley with the expansion Chicago Fire, which won the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup double in its inaugural season. Nowak, who ended his career after the 2002 season, assumed the D.C. United head coaching position in 2004 and won the title his first year.

He is believed to have been one of the final five candidates interviewed by U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati in his search to replace Bruce Arena as national team coach. "Nowak, he was a heck of a player," said Gulati in jest when asked to comment on these latest U.S. Soccer/MLS coaching developments. "I'm not commenting on whether Mr. Nowak was one of those five or any other five."

Nowak's three-year contract with D.C. was about to expire. Reluctance on the part of Payne to discuss an extension during the MLS season and Nowak's contacts in Europe - he played five seasons in the German Bundesliga and represented the Polish national team 24 times - fueled speculation he might be bound for Europe.

The move further complicates the task of CD Chivas USA, which freed Bradley from his contract two weeks ago to take over as interim head coach of the national team and Olympic team head coach. Soehn interviewed for the CD Chivas USA job after making the final cut in Dallas but eventually lost out to Steve Morrow.

Aside from the Chivas USA complications, this move is a win-win-win, an upgrade all around. If anyone doubted Bradley wouldn't throw his full commitment into the job, despite its interim title, this should eradicate those beliefs.
Nowak's knowledge, passion, experience and incredible accomplishments as a player are invaluable additions to U.S. Soccer. He can speak to the emotion as well as the emphases of international play.

Soehn is well-versed in MLS as a player and assistant coach, and knows D.C. well, having worked three seasons as Nowak's assistant. Having been passed over several times, including for the Dallas team he once played for, he's finally been given the chance most of his contemporaries believe he deserves. He has high standards to meet.

And Chivas USA will have to dig deeper to find a new head coach, one who can build on Bradley's accomplishments of transforming a four-win team in 2005 into a playoff qualifier last season. The new man has Jonathan Bornstein, Ante Razov, Sacha Kljestan, Amado Guevara, Brad Guzan, et al to work with. Francisco Palencia might be back in MLS next season rather than in Mexico.

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