Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak spent a few minutes chatting with reporters this afternoon about the team's newest signing, Costa Rican forward Josué Martinez.
Here are some highlights.
On whether Martinez will be a Designated Player, especially given the league’s new salary structure for young Designated Players:
On how the deal came together:
We did have preliminary talks with the club in July. We decided that for the club it would be better to let Josué stay with the team, which we agreed, and then we continued with the president of Saprissa over the last six or seven months.
And then in the past couple of weeks the whole thing sped up, even though they had a very important playoff game against Alajualense, and we didn’t want to disturb that. After everything was said and done, we decided to proceed with the transfer and agreed to terms.
Obviously I’m very happy and want to thank the guys at Saprissa because they helped us a lot to make progress with this transfer, and allow Josué to come to our team.
On what qualities Martinez brings to the Union, and whether the club has been missing those qualities:
Our club has not been missing too much... Josué is one of those prospects who, even though he’s very young, has already established himself playing in the Gold Cup, playing in Copa America and also with the Costa Rican national team U-20's.
There’s a lot of expectation on them there, and here as well. We believe that he will develop in the right way, and he will feel comfortable with our team as well as in the locker room.
We just want to make our team better - not necessarily younger, but those kinds of projects are very important to our philosophy as a team, as a franchise... This is the way we would like to proceed in the next year.
Being at a very young age, he has a lot of things to prove, and we believe that we can help him.
On the length of the transfer:
The transfer is a permanent transfer, so it’s not a loan. I’m not allowed to disclose any details about the contract.
On what it means for the Union to bring in a young attacking player, given how many teams in MLS have brought in older players from abroad in recent seasons:
I think we’ve found a good chemistry, a good balance, between being too young and being too old. It’s not the first signing we’ve made in this off-season, and we’ll try to find a balance when we start in January with a group of players that know what to do off the field and on the field.
Josué is a guy whose potential we believe in, and the president and management of Saprissa think he’s going to be a full-time international with the Costa Rican national team.
On whether the Union might lose Martinez during the Olympics next summer, and what impact it will have on the team if it loses players to the United States squad as well:
It’s always a thought that you might have guys missing a game because of international duty. That’s a part that we always look into. This year and next year are going to be crucial for national teams, whether the U.S. or Costa Rica. It’s very important to have good backups, and also to have a group that is going to compete against each other.
I’ve always said that competition is going to bring the best out of the players, and that’s where we want to go. We want to add more pieces that are going to create more competition within the team, and also make our players better.
That’s the story I’ve told you, even after the season when you asked about mixing up the lineups. I think everyone is important. The more guys we have like that - not only sitting and reading newspapers but being involved in the team mentality - then it’s better, and we’re going to have results. That’s the mentality we want to proceed with.
On the Union’s philosophy of wanting to have interchangeable parts:
It’s difficult [to make roster moves] during the MLS season. We always try to look at the bright side, but you can’t win a championship with 13 guys. You’ve got to establish a culture that everybody’s important, that everybody knows what to do, and competes for sports on the field.
It’s an easy job for us to do as a technical staff, to figure out who we can out on. I think that’s another step in the direction that regardless of the day, we can put out a lineup and the players will be productive and they will be playing the way we want, and the quality on the field will be better.
Zach Pfeffer, Jack McInerney, Danny Mwanga, all those guys are going to grow up. So the more guys we have in like that, and Josué is another one, I’m sure he’s going to fit in very well.
He’s a very humble guy, and he’s got a different quality that we might need with his speed. He can play as a central striker, he can play on the wing, he can mix it up. That’s the part, being that unpredictable with his skill set, I think it’s a very important factor for our team as well.
On what other moves the Union might make during the offseason:
I would say the only position we are not looking at right now is goalkeeper. The rest is up in the air. We will strengthen every line possible. I think it’s not only because we are good at forward or midfielder. We need our game to get stronger and bigger.
Regardless of his age, we’re lucky to add Josué, because he brings a different quality. And I think he has a couple of qualities in his game that we want to make better during the preseason.
He’s been following our league for years, so he has a lot of friends here. It’s a good start now with Josué. At other positions, it’s no secret that we have to get better. Bigger in the back line, that’s for sure. We’re looking also to build up the midfield and forward positions.
Every position can get better. And if we have two or three guys at the same position, let them compete and see who’s going to get better. Then on any day during the MLS season, we can choose whoever we want and play the way we want to.
That’s the main point of making the team better. It’s not necessarily being younger, but we’re going to look at any possible option during the season to make the team better.
On what Martinez’s best trait is:
I referred to his speed. Everybody talks about that. When we watched him and discussed this transfer, we figured that it was going to be very important to add some speed. That’s why the first decision was to add Nizar Khalfan, because we lost Justin Mapp, who has great speed and is very versatile.
He has scored a couple of goals via headers, which means he’s very good in the air as well. That’s a very good sign.
Nowak's remarks weren't the only news item involving the Union today. Five players from the team were called into a training camp for the U.S. Under-23 national team, which will attempt to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics in a tournament next March.
Those five players are: goalkeeper Zac MacMath, defender Sheanon Williams, midfielders Amobi Okugo and Freddy Adu, and forward Jack McInerney.
The U.S. Under-23 team is coached by Caleb Porter. He created a college soccer powerhouse at the University of Akron from 2006 until earlier this year, when he took the Under-23 national team job. Porter's training camp roster includes two players from Akron's 2010 national championship squad: Kofie Sarkodie and Lancaster, Pa., native Zarek Valentin.
Here's the full roster:
Goalkeepers (4): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Zac MacMath (Philadelphia Union)
Defenders (8): Gale Agbossoumonde (Eintracht Frankfurt), Royal-Dominique Fennell (Stuttgarter Kickers), Sebastien Ibeagha (Duke), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact), Jorge Villafana (Chivas USA), Andrew Wenger (Duke), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union)
Midfielders (10): Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Bryan Arguez (Montreal Impact), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Danny Cruz (Houston Dynamo), Mikkel Diskerud (Stabæk), Dilly Duka (Columbus Crew), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz), Sebastian Lletget (West Ham United), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy)
Forwards (6): Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Teal Bunbury (Sporting KC), Jann George (Nürnberg), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Andrew Wooten (Kaiserslautern)
CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament will run from March 22-April 2. The United States' group will be based at LP Field in Nashville, with the other group (including Mexico) based at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The semifinals and final will be played at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., with the two finalists earning tickets to the big show in London.
Here's the U.S.' schedule. All of the games will be broadcast on Universal Sports and Telemundo.
March 22: vs. Cuba, 9:00 p.m. ET
March 24: vs. Canada, 7:00 p.m. ET
March 26: vs. El Salvador, 9:00 p.m. ET
March 31: Semifinal round, 6:00 or 9:00 p.m. ET
April 2: Championship game, 8:00 p.m. ET