The East is ours for the taking. Be here on Friday for #DCvSKC: http://t.co/dRh3rjTMjB #DCU

sebastian salazar

08 May 1:52 pm

The Black-and-Red endured some trying travel during recent road trip

After a week long trip that took them from D.C. to San Jose to Toronto and back to Washington, United's players were clearly glad to be back at home on Tuesday.  Here are a few notes from the Black-and-Red's first home training session since April.

INJURY UPDATE

A single glance at D.C. United's starting backfour against Toronto is all the proof needed of just how hard the Black-and-Redhave been hit by injuries this season. With only one of four central back options available, Head Coach BenOlsen was forced to play three of his defenders out of position in the 2-0 winover TFC.

There was some good news on that front atTuesday's practice as Dejan Jakovic, Ethan White and Emiliano Dudar allparticipated to varying degrees. After taking part in the team warm-up, Jakovic did some conditioning -including sprints - and ball work off to the side.  Dudar participated in the warm-up but rested for much of theremainder of the session.  White,who underwent knee surgery on March 13, practiced fully.

"It's early," Olsen said when askedabout the possible return of either Jakovic or Dudar.  "They went through a little bit today, let's see howthey respond.  We'll just keep buildingthem up.  We don't know at thispoint."

Robbie Russell, who was held out Saturday for aday of rest after accumulating more minutes than any other United player so farthis season, also practiced.

TOUGH TRIP

If United's players looked a little disheveledduring the opening half in Toronto, it's because they probably were.  After playing San Jose late onWednesday night, Thursday turned into a nightmarish travel day for theBlack-and-Red. 

Following an early wake-up call, the team busdeparted for the airport shortly after 8:00 a.m.  Once at San Francisco International Airport, D.C. learnedthat their departure time had been delayed an hour.  From there, things only got worse as United's flight toToronto hit severe turbulence moments before landing.

"[There were] a lot of sweaty palms,"Chris Pontius said with a laugh on Tuesday.  "A lot of sweat going on.  It wasn't fun, but at least we got there safely."

Though they'd landed, the Black-and-Red werefar from home free.

The thunderstorms responsible for the turbulence prevented crews atToronto's airport from reaching United's plane immediately upon arrival.  As a result, the Black-and-Red spentanother two hours waiting on the tarmac and didn't arrive at their Torontohotel until well after 11 p.m.

03 May 5:44 pm

An update on D.C.'s loanees plus a look at Daniel Woolard's recent offensive explosion

After seeing his defensive unit give up five goals in D.C.'s mid-week defeat at San Jose, Daniel Woolard wasn't very keen on discussing his individual offensive exploits late Wednesday night. 

"We weren't very good defensively tonight and that hurt us," Woolard answered matter-of-factly via telephone from the visitors’ locker room at Buck Shaw Stadium.

After seeing his defensive unit give up fivegoals in D.C.'s mid-week defeat at San Jose, Daniel Woolard wasn't very keen ondiscussing his individual offensive exploits late Wednesday night. 

"We weren't very good defensively tonightand that hurt us," Woolard answered matter-of-factly via telephone fromthe visitors’ locker room at Buck Shaw Stadium.

While it may be hard to disagree with Woolard'sassessment, it's also worth noting the 28-year-old's impact on an attack thathas now scored ten goals in the club's last three matches.  When he earned a spot in United'sstarting eleven last year, most assumed Woolard's lockdown defending would comeat the expense of any offensive contributions from the left back spot.  But just days after notching two assistsagainst Houston, Woolard scored his first goal of 2012 on a beautiful divingheader in the 64th minute.

"With all the guys that we have, any extraman getting forward is going to help score goals," noted Woolard of hisincreased offensive output. "We have so many guys that teams have to key on, it gives otherplayers an opportunity to get open more and I think that is what has happenedwith me."

LOAN UPDATES

Before D.C. United even took the field at BuckShaw, one member of the Black-and-Red had already put in his day's work.  On loan with the Ft. LauderdaleStrikers of the NASL, Conor Shanosky played the full ninety minutes in a 3-3draw with the Carolina Railhawks earlier Wednesday night.

"To be able to play in competitive matchesis something that I've been missing a lot," said the 20-year-old UnitedAcademy product that has yet to make a first-team appearance for theBlack-and-Red.  "It's hugereally and it has been good for my development.  You can't really replicate a first team match with stuff onthe line and the overall competition."

In addition to earning meaningful minutes,Shanosky is displaying noteworthy versatility during his loan spell.  While serving mostly as a centralmidfield, the Potomac Falls High School product was dropped into the center ofdefense when a red card forced Strikers' coach Daryl Shore to shuffle his backline.  So far this season, Shanoskyhas played all but 23 minutes for a Ft. Lauderdale side that sits behind onlyPuerto Rico in the NASL standings.

Another United loanee is making quite thereturn to the club where he spent most of 2011.  Andrew Dykstra, now on his second loan spell of the season with the Charleston Battery, picked up USL PRO Goalkeeper of the Week honors forhis four-save performance in a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

"As a goalkeeper, just getting game timeis important for our development and understanding of what we see and how weread the game," said Dykstra of his stint in the third division.  "The games are really kind of thething that I'm taking advantage of by being here."

After signing with D.C. this preseason, Dykstra credited his time 2011 Charleston stint with giving him theconfidence necessary to earn a second chance in MLS.  The 26-year-old goalkeeper, who is set to return to Unitedon May 20, has recorded a pair of shutouts and a 2-1 record since joining theBattery earlier this year.

27 April 4:07 pm

Houston coach Dominic Kinnear already has an eye on the Eastern Conference table

D.C. United held a closed training session Friday morning as the club made final preparations for Saturday's match against the Houston Dynamo.  A few notes from around RFK:

NEVER TOO EARLY

While it's easy to brush off a late April match as 'just another game', D.C. United fans should be cautious about underestimating the importance of Saturday's encounter with Houston. 

Most might think it too early to start talking standings and - gasp - playoffs, but Saturday's opponents are already in that frame of mind.

D.C. United held a closed training session Friday morning as the club made final preparations for Saturday's match against the Houston Dynamo.  A few notes from around RFK:

NEVER TOO EARLY

While it's easy to brush off a late April matchas 'just another game', D.C. United fans should be cautious aboutunderestimating the importance of Saturday's encounter with Houston. 

Most might think it too early to start talkingstandings and - gasp - playoffs, but Saturday's opponents are already in thatframe of mind.

"They are all important," saidHouston coach Domnic Kinnear early this week.  "It is the sixth game of the season but they have alittle bit of a lead on us in the standings."

Kinnear's early focus on the Eastern Conferencetable is far from premature.  OnMay 15 of last year, the Black-and-Red sat sixth in the Eastern Conference,just one spot ahead of where the club finished the 2011 regular season.  United are presently in second placeheading into the weekend, a marked improvement as D.C.approaches the one-quarter mark of its schedule.

TALL TASK

How do you improve upon a hat trick?

That's the question facing Chris Pontius afterhis brilliant performance against New York last Sunday.  The midfielder-turned-forward spentmuch of practice this week doing some 'on the job' training for his newposition.

"I still have a lot to learn," the24-year-old admitted on Thursday. "The runs are different, and you basically play with your back togoal a lot of times.  I have to bestronger on the ball and just learn to play off whoever is up there."

Pontius' hat trick pushed him into a four-waytie for fourth place on the MLS scoring charts.  Of the league's top scorers, the Californian is one of themost efficient, scoring his four goals on just eleven shots.

BACK IN THE MIX

Holding midfielder Marcelo Saragosa rejoined the club on Wednesday after returning to Brazil following his father's sudden passing two weeks ago.  On Friday, D.C. head coach Ben Olsenwouldn't say whether Saragosa would be available for selection on Saturday, butseemed optimistic.

"He looks fine," United's taskmasterreplied when asked about Saragosa's fitness. 

The Brazilian's return is a welcome boost for a United centralmidfield that needs some depth. Since returning from Olympic qualifying duty - where he played three matchesin five days - Perry Kitchen has been on the field for every minute of D.C.'slast five contests.

26 April 3:30 pm

D.C. captain Dwayne De Rosario shares hometown with Caps' hero Ward

Dwayne De Rosario and Joel Ward

When Capitals' Right Wing Joel Ward scored nearly three minutes into overtime to seal Washington's Game 7 win over Boston, most of D.C. exploded in celebration. United captain Dwayne De Rosario - who attended two of the three first-round playoff games at Verizon Center - was no different.

"I was yelling," DeRo said of his reaction to Ward's game-winning effort. "I was sitting there watching the game and I was like - Joel scored - [There might have been] a couple profanities in there."

Introduced by a mutual friend, Ward and De Rosario have actually known each other for years.  The pair hail from the working-class Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Ontario and both have Caribbean roots.  Ward's parents are originally from Barbados, while De Rosario is the son of Guyanese immigrants to Canada.

"To have a fellow Torontonian doing big things for D.C. is good," said the reigning Volkswagen MLS MVP. "I'm happy for him."

As a youngster, De Rosario was a big fan of the dominant Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980's. While he admits to still being a supporter of his struggling hometown Maple Leafs, DeRo quickly adopted the Caps after moving to Washington last summer.

Apparently, United's captain knows a thing or two about hockey as he correctly picked both the outcome and exact score of Game 7 earlier in the week. For proof, check out Tuesday's practice notes.

26 April 1:57 pm

Before being traded to D.C., Danny Cruz spent his first three MLS seasons in Houston

Just over 48 hours from Saturday's Armed Forces and Veterans Appreciation Day showdown with the Houston Dynamo, D.C. United underwent a brief training session Thursday morning.  Here are a few notes from the training grounds outside RFK.

FINDING THE ELEVEN

Much has been written of late about thedifficult decisions Ben Olsen has had to make in light of thebetter-than-expected play D.C. is getting out of players who started the 2012season on the bench.  Nick DeLeon,Danny Cruz, Maicon Santos, Emiliano Dudar and Joe Willis have all earnedstarting spots despite being reserves less than two months ago against KansasCity.  With so many choices Olsenhas shown an early willingness to mix up his line-up, but that may soon change.

"I hope we can get a consistent team outthere that has a very good rhythm," United's coach said this week.  "But if we go down a guy or two or[have] suspensions or something like that we are covered."

Whatever issues might arise from having morecapable players than the minutes to satisfy them all are outweighed by thelessons Olsen learned in 2011.

"We've been caught with having 12 or 13[options]," he added. "Then you get a couple of injuries and now you are down the rosterand you are relying on guys that probably shouldn't be out there."

» Create and share your starting XI for Saturday vs Houston Dynamo.

CRUZ ON HOUSTON

All week Danny Cruz has faced questions aboutpreparing to face his former team, and the emotional winger has acknowledgedthe need to keep his feelings in check when kickoff comes Saturday night.

While Cruz has said he has no ill-will towardshis former club, the 22-year-old isn't denying the extra motivation he's foundin looking to prove that Houston's decision to trade him away was the wrongchoice.

"I was a big piece of that puzzle,"Cruz noted.  "But, I was alwaysswept under the rug - I felt like - and it's hard when you don't feel like you aregetting a little bit of respect."

Cruz isn't exaggerating his role with theDynamo.  After he was re-insertedinto the starting lineup following a 1-1 draw with Chicago on October 1 of last year, Houstonwon five straight matches before falling 1-0 to Los Angeles in MLSCup.

24 April 3:00 pm

With a valuable three points locked away thanks to Sunday's dominant performance, D.C. United returned to training on Tuesday.  Here are a few notes from the late morning session.

OLYMPIC DRAW

While D.C. United trained early Tuesday morning, the Olympic soccer draw took place a half-world away at Wembley Stadium. The Black-and-Red's lone representative in London will be Andy Najar, who has said previously that he thinks his Honduran side could medal.

Los Catrachos will be paired with Spain, Japan and Morocco in Group D. Spain won the Under-21 European Championship last year and Najar already has his heart set on proving himself against some of the best young talent in the world. 

"Spain is a team that has players who have proven themselves from a very young age," Najar said Tuesday in a Spanish Language interview. "It's going to be a great experience for us to play against them. That game will give us all great ambition to prove ourselves in Europe. We will show what we can do and leave it all on the field."

Spain and Honduras will meet on July 29 in Newcastle.

NEAL JOINS ROTATION

With full-fledged battles for playing time occurring all over the field, United supporters may have been surprised to see the unheralded Lewis Neal brought on as a sub in each of the Black-and-Red's two most recent matches. After training on Tuesday, Neal discussed the competitive atmosphere in which the Englishman has stood out enough to earn back-to-back appearances.

"The staff are watching us closely in training and the standards of training have been very high these last few weeks," said Neal, who replaced Chris Pontius in the 88th minute against New York. "Everybody is fighting for a place and nobody wants to lose their [spot]. For those of us who don't have [a starting spot] we are working our socks off to try and get one. It's making for an all-around good team spirit and everyone wanting to do their best to try and keep their [spot]."

CAPS FEVER

As United prepares for its Saturday evening showdown with Eastern Conference foe Houston, D.C.'s players are keeping a close eye on the Washington Capitals playoff run. Defender Perry Kitchen caught the hockey bug while joining Nick DeLeon and Danny Cruz at the Verizon Center for Game 3 of the Boston - Washington series.

"This is new," admitted Kitchen of his fascination with hockey. "I mean I've watched it a little bit before, but it's really growing on me."

One United player who has become a regular at the Verizon Center is midfielder/forward Chris Pontius. During his four years in Washington, Pontius - who like Kitchen did not grow up a hockey fan - has quickly transformed into an ardent Caps' supporter. 

"I would say that it's very similar in the way that it's played," noted Pontius, comparing hockey to soccer. "The free flowing play [is similar], but hockey is a little bit faster."

"I think the Caps are going to beat them. I think 2-1," added Dwayne De Rosario - a lifelong hockey fan - when asked for a Game 7 prediction.  "I don't know what it is, but I think the Caps play better away from home."

20 April 2:52 pm

DC's players make their predictions for Saturday's Real Madrid - Barcelona clash

After a day off on Thursday, United's players returned to RFK for a full training session Friday morning.  A few updates from the practice pitch:

DUDAR LATEST

After missing Wednesday night's draw with Montreal while recovering from a strained hamstring, Emiliano Dudar practiced fully on Friday.  Dudar said after practice that he expected to be ready on Sunday, which would provide some much needed experience along D.C.'s back four.  Following the session, Ben Olsen spoke about his decision to hold the Argentine out against Montreal.

After a day off on Thursday, United's players returned to RFK for a full training session Friday morning.  A few updates from the practice pitch:

DUDAR LATEST

After missing Wednesday night's draw withMontreal while recovering from a strained hamstring, Emiliano Dudar practicedfully on Friday.  Dudar said afterpractice that he expected to be ready on Sunday, which would provide some muchneeded experience along D.C.'s back four. Following the session, Ben Olsen spoke about his decision to hold theArgentine out against Montreal.

"He maybe could have got through the lastgame," Olsen acknowledged. "But with Dejan [Jakovic] out we decided to let him get another dayor two to fully recover."

Jakovic's absence following an ankle sprainleaves D.C. with little depth in defense. Should Dudar return, Robbie Russell would likely return to his morecomfortable spot as a right back after occupying a central role against the Impact.

BURNING THE BULLS

Of the four MLS teams that employed Dwayne DeRosario before his arrival in D.C., none has managed to escape the reigningleague MVP's wrath.  DeRo alwaysseems to save his best performances for former clubs and Sunday willprovide him another opportunity against a New York side that traded him awaylast June.

"I don't know why that is, I can't put myfinger on it," DeRo responded when asked about his track record againstformer employers.  "I'm definitelyover all that stuff that went on last year.  It's a new year, a new season.  The main thing now is getting our guys [totally]focused."

De Rosario earned the 2011 Volkswagen MLS MVPthanks to the thirteen goals he scored after being traded to Washington, andsix of those tallies came against teams for which he once played.  DeRo found the net against Toronto (hattrick), San Jose (twice) and notched the game-winner against the Red Bulls justtwelve days after they had shipped him south.

EL CLASICO PREDICTIONS

With their showdown against New York slated forSunday, many of United's players will be watching another classic this weekend as Real Madrid and Barcelona face off in a match that will go a long way toward determining La Liga's champion.

We asked a few playersfor predictions on the Saturday afternoon affair:

Brandon McDonald: Barcelona

Comment: "Anybody who knows anything aboutfootball will take Barcelona.  Theyare the team of our generation."

Maicon Santos: Barcelona

Comment (translated): "I don't know whatthe final score will be, because with Barca you never know."

Dwayne De Rosario: Barcelona

Comment: "Barca all the way baby. I'vealways liked Barca since I was a kid. The football they play, I admire it.

Emiliano Dudar: Barcelona

Comment (translated): "Barcelona becausethey are the better team and because Cristiano Ronaldo is arrogant and I can'tstand him!"

Danny Cruz: Real Madrid

Comment: "Because everyone loves Barcelona."

16 April 3:31 pm

D.C. forward Josh Wolff has played alongside Montreal's coach and its captain

Less than 48 hours removed from a road win against New England, D.C. United’s players were back at work early Monday morning.  Though Mondays are usually off days for the Black-and-Red, Ben Olsen and his crew must prepare for a quick turnaround with Wednesday night’s clash against Montreal looming.  Here are a few notes from around RFK. 

INJURY UPDATE

Less than 48 hours removed from a road win against NewEngland, D.C. United’s players were back at work early Monday morning.  Though Mondays are usually off days forthe Black-and-Red, Ben Olsen and his crew must prepare for a quick turnaroundwith Wednesday night’s clash against Montreal looming.  Here are a few notes from around RFK. 

INJURY UPDATE

While United’s central defense has taken some hits over thelast week, there was one hopeful sign at Monday’s training session.  Ethan White worked separately on someconditioning and ball-work exercises, showing signs of tangible improvement in hissurgically repaired right knee. White underwent surgery on March 13 and was expected to miss around sixweeks.

Also working off to the side was fellow central defenderEmiliano Dudar, who strained his left hamstring late last week.  The Argentine was jogging on Monday andhis condition is improving although it is still unclear whether he’ll beavailable against the Impact. 

Dejan Jakovic, who came off injured in the 60thminute against New England, did not practice.

FAMILIAR FOE

Though there isn’t much videotape on Montreal, D.C. willhave some intimate knowledge of the Impact when the expansion side visits RFKon Wednesday.  In addition toplaying alongside Montreal coach Jesse Marsch for five seasons in Chicago, Unitedforward Josh Wolff played with Impact captain Davy Arnaud during his two stintsin Kansas City.  After training,Wolff was quick to point out Arnaud’s imprint on the Impact.

“He’s the captain and I think they live and breathe by hisexample,” Wolff said Monday of his former teammate.  “They fight, and they get around the ball a lot.  It is something that we are going toneed to be aware of.”

Wolff and Arnaud played together from 2003 to 2006 and againfrom 2008 to 2010.  In fact, thepair tallied their first goals for Kansas City on the same day as both playersscored in a 2-1 win over the then New York MetroStars on June 8, 2003. 

TALON AT THE CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

United's lovable mascot Talon participated in the 2012 National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on Saturday as part of the Events DC float.

14 April 11:41 pm

Playing with heavy hearts, D.C. United managed a difficult road win in New England

D.C. United pulled off an inspiring win Saturday night in New England.  Here are some leftovers from the comeback victory at Gillette Stadium. 

MARCELO ON THEIR MINDS

When United's players were told early Saturday morning that Marcelo Saragosa's father had passed away unexpectedly in Brazil, the Black-and-Red were - to a man - devastated for their teammate.  D.C. entered the match with heavy hearts and with Saragosa not far from their thoughts.   

D.C. United pulled off an inspiring winSaturday night in New England. Here are some leftovers from the comeback victory at Gillette Stadium. 

MARCELO ON THEIR MINDS

When United's players were told early Saturdaymorning that Marcelo Saragosa's father had passed away unexpectedly in Brazil,the Black-and-Red were - to a man - devastated for their teammate.  D.C. entered the match with heavyhearts and with Saragosa not far from their thoughts.   

"When one of our brothers is going throughsomething like that we all feel his pain," said captain Dwayne DeRosario.  "We definitelywanted to go and win this game for him and his family, and I'm grateful we wereable to do that.  Now, when helooks at the game sheet he'll see that we won and hopefully it will put alittle smile on his face."

It may not have been easy to pick out on thebroadcast, but - in tribute to the popular midfielder and his father - D.C.wore a black armband against the Revolution.

KING ON CALL

As Saragosa was planning his return trip toBrazil, Ben Olsen was scrambling for a replacement to fill out D.C.'s matchdayroster.  Stephen King was the manager'schoice, but at first, Olsen couldn't get a hold of the steady midfielder.

At dinner in Arlington with his fiancée andsome friends, King checked his phone at around 8:30 Friday night and saw thathe had two missed calls from his head coach.  After confirming his availability, the 26-year-old made abeeline for the airport where a 10:00 p.m. flight took him to Providence.  From there he took a cab to the teamhotel in Foxborough, where King settled in for a few hours of sleep before a7:00 a.m. wake-up call on Saturday.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

For the second straight week, the back fourthat finished the match for United wasn't the same group that started it.  Dejan Jakovic's second-half injuryforced Robbie Russell to move inside and Chris Korb to come off the bench.  Just like they did against Seattle lastSaturday, D.C.'s makeshift back line held firm in the second half.

"It isn't an ideal situation but it is asource of pride that we came together and did well," Russell said.  "Hopefully we can keep four guysout there for ninety minutes and get back to a unit that works welltogether."

"We believe in our subs," addedOlsen.  "No matter who westart we think we have a group off the bench that can really change thegame."

In addition to praising Russell for his versatility, Olsen singledout Korb, telling reporters after the match that the second-year defender'brought a lot to the game'.

12 April 3:30 pm

A few notes as D.C. United prepares for the club's lone road match in April

After a rare day off on Wednesday, United's players were back at RFK Thursday for preparations ahead of Friday's departure for New England.  Afterwards, we caught up on some of the key storylines ahead of Saturday's Eastern Conference clash. 

PLAYERS ONLY

About halfway through Thursday’s intense training session,captain Dwayne De Rosario called a players-only huddle at midfield.  Though he didn’t discuss the specificsof what was said, veteran defender Robbie Russell spoke after practice aboutthe message shared during the brief meeting.

“It’s an attempt by DeRo to get us together and voice someopinions when we get choppy with each other,” said Russell.  “[He’s] trying to keep us on point andfocused and that we are all working together towards one goal.  Sometimes tempers get heated but that’snot what is important, it’s the objective that’s important.”

When United visits New England on Saturday it will be apseudo-homecoming for Russell, who spent most of his teen years in Amherst,Massachusetts.  Despite coming offinjured against Seattle, Russell trained fully Thursday and should be fit forselection in New England.

EL 'DUDE'

Since defender Emiliano Dudar’s inclusion in the startingeleven, United have allowed just a single goal over the club’s last threematches.  Despite multiple changesalong D.C.’s back line against Seattle, the experienced Argentine was able toefficiently organize the Black-and-Red’s defensive efforts.

“Sure, there were changes, but every player who had to stepin has shown that they are capable,” Dudar said Thursday in a Spanish-languageinterview.  “Judging from what Isee in practice, I think each player on this team can play at a high enough levelto be a starter.”

Since replacing Dejan Jakovic at halftime against LosAngeles, Dudar has not missed a single minute while patrolling the center of D.C.’sdefense.

HAMID CONTINUES TO IMPROVE

Bill Hamid was back to his old tricks on Thursday, showingno ill effects from the ankle injury that has hobbled him since returning fromOlympic qualifying duty.  Duringone particularly impressive sequence, Hamid denied both Hamdi Salihi and ChrisPontius from point-blank range in a rapid-fire finishing drill. 

“Bill looked good,” Head Coach Ben Olsen acknowledgedafterwards.  “He made some prettyimpressive saves today.  I think he’sstill getting his feet under him from the injury, but he looks good.”

Although the coach wouldn’t go as far as to name a starter, Olsendid confirm after practice that Hamid would join Joe Willis in D.C.'s traveling goalie contingent to New England.