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sebastian salazar

11 April 2:55 pm

A few storylines from around RFK as United players earn a day off

United's players were given a rare day off on Wednesday as the team prepares for Saturday's road trip to New England.  Here are a few storylines from around RFK as the club prepares for Friday's departure to Boston.

WOOLARD STILL WORKING

Despite the fact that United’s players were given the day off, Daniel Woolard was spotted early Wednesday morning in D.C.’s locker room.  The young defender has played extremely well of late, and will be the cover feature on the club’s Matchday program April 18.

United's players were given a rare day off on Wednesday as the team prepares for Saturday's road trip to New England.  Here are a few storylines from around RFK as the club prepares for Friday's departure to Boston.

WOOLARD STILL WORKING

Despite the fact that United’s players were given the dayoff, Daniel Woolard was spotted early Wednesday morning in D.C.’s lockerroom.  The young defender hasplayed extremely well of late, and will be the cover feature on the club’sMatchday program April 18.

Below is an excerpt from the article on Woolard, whichchronicles his amazing journey from seldom-recruited high school back to MLSstarter:

"After the last game of our season, I'm thinking I'm fine withmy career being over," Woolard admitted of his attitude followingMidwestern State's elimination from the 2006 NCAA Division II Tournament.  "I was thinking morerealistic.  I had to finish mydegree and start thinking about what I wanted to do in the working world.”

Woolard is tied for third on United in minutes played so farthis season, trailing only Robbie Russell and Dwayne De Rosario.

COMPETITION EVERYWHERE

With Bill Hamid’s return to practice earlier this week,United now has two proven goalkeepers to choose from in the coming weeks.  Though Ben Olsen wouldn't discussspecifics after Tuesday’s training session, D.C.'s coach did acknowledge a heightened competition for multiple spots in his starting eleven. 

Later Tuesday afternoon, Joe Willis stopped by the CapitalSoccer Show studios for an interview and spoke briefly on Hamid’s return andthe current goalkeeping situation.

“He's a great goalie," Willis said of his teammate.  "As an athlete you always want to play.  It’s always upsetting to sit on the bench, but I trust thecoaches’ decisions.

I feel capable of playing and I also have confidence in Bill.”

HOLIDAY HEROES

On Monday, a foursome of United representatives made their way to the WhiteHouse Easter Egg Roll. Robbie Russell, Stephen King and Chris Pontius joined head coach BenOlsen in celebrating the 134th installment of the annual tradition.

“How many times do you get to say you went to the White Houseand play with kids out on the lawn?” Pontius told MLSsoccer.com. “We’rebasically just getting them moving, keeping them occupied. We’re just trying tomake it fun for the kids.”

Though D.C.'s attendees had the shortest commute, the Black-and-Red weren’t the only MLS side represented at 1600Pennsylvania Avenue.  Members ofthe Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls were also in attendance,including former D.C. midfielder Brian Carroll.

05 April 2:31 pm

Former D.C. defender Marc Burch took a shot at Daniel Woolard earlier this week

In advance of Saturday night's match against Seattle, D.C. United took their training inside RFK on Thursday.  Afterwards, we caught up on a few of storylines from the week.

MAN OF FEW WORDS

Former D.C. defender Marc Burch provided plenty of locker room material with his quotes earlier this week.  Perhaps most noteworthy was Burch’s assertion that he is better than United’s current left back.

In advance of Saturday night's match against Seattle, D.C. United took their training inside RFK on Thursday.  Afterwards, we caught up on a few of storylines from the week.

MAN OF FEW WORDS

Former D.C. defender Marc Burch provided plenty of locker roommaterial with his quotes earlier this week.  Perhaps most noteworthy was Burch’s assertion that he isbetter than United’s current left back.

It would seem to be a thinly veiled shot at Daniel Woolard, who nowoccupies the left back spot in the Black-and-Red defense.  Offered the chance to respond on Thursday, the quiet defender had little to say.

“It is what it is,” said Woolard.  “I’m just trying to go out there and win the game for our fansand get three points.”

Unwilling to bite on the first question, the 27-year-old wasgiven yet another opportunity to engage in Burch’s war of words when asked if hewas surprised by his former teammates’ comments.

“No comment,” Woolardadded with a wry smile and a laugh.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

After not playing since the first half of United’s 3-1 lossto Los Angeles on March 18, Dejan Jakovic should get an opportunity to play thisSaturday.  Though BrandonMcDonald’s absence is far from ideal, this serves as yet another reminder why adding depth was atop D.C.’s offseason improvement list.  After Thursday’s training session, Jakovic acknowledged thatcommunication would be key when he steps in for McDonald against Seattle.

“I have a chance to come in and help the team get anotherwin, that’s the way I’m looking atit,” said the Canadian International. “We have to make sure we are on the same page.  We’ve had a bunch of different lineups, so justcommunication and being on the same page is important.”

CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL VISIT

After learning of a local youth soccer player undergoingtreatment at Children’s Hospital in D.C., United midfielder Kurt Morsinkdecided to pay the youngster a visit late last week.

While professional athletes often give their time forsimilar causes, Morsink noted that he was particularly impacted by this trip.  After practiceThursday, the 27-year-old shared his experience.

“It just changed the way I view life,” Morsink explained.  “It makes us realizehow lucky we are and how we have to go out of our way to be even better rolemodels.  That on the field stuff isgreat, but if we can be good people as well that’s more important.  As D.C. United players we take pride inbeing good on the field and off the field as well.”

04 April 3:30 pm

Brandon McDonald received a one-match ban from MLS

Because of a rare Monday practice, D.C. United's regular starters were given the day off on Wednesday.  After the shortened training, we picked up on a few storylines ahead of Saturday's match against Seattle. 

MCDONALD REACTS TO SUSPENSION

When word broke late yesterday about BrandonMcDonald's suspension, D.C. United's fans took to social media in droves toprotest the one-game ban.  McDonaldwasn't the only United player disciplined by Major League Soccer as Danny Cruzearned an undisclosed fine for 'his act of embellishment which brought the gameinto disrepute'.

After a brief training session Wednesday, thefifth-year defender made clear what his intentions were on the 20th-minutetackle that drew the league's attention.

"My intention is never to go in and hurtanybody and end their career," said McDonald.  "If you watch again you can see he kind of steps into[the tackle] and that's what makes it look as bad as it did."

When asked if the suspension would affect hisphysical style of play moving forward, the 26-year-old answered with authority.

"No.  Not at all," McDonald replied.  "This is why they got me here, to be that type ofplayer on the field.  I think weneed it and it would be foolish of me to change the way I play.  At the same time, I have to be smartabout what I'm doing."

TIME TO GO STREAKING

At the risk of being redundant, it has been along time since D.C. United last won back-to-back games.  Asked earlier this week if getting thewin-streak monkey off their backs would be discussed, Ben Olsen said he didn'twant to harp on it.  Yet on Wednesday, Stephen King acknowledged that stringing together victories is atopthe Black-and-Red's to-do list.

"It's definitely being talked about,"said the United midfielder. "It's one of the things we set out to do at the beginning of theyear.  We want to put togetherstreaks and it starts going into this game.  It's a good opportunity for us to put together two wins back-to-back."

United's last winning streak came in early June of 2009.  Chris Pontius and Dejan Jakovic are the only current players that were on the roster for those consecutive victories over New York and Chicago.

BURCH BURN

If you have yet to see former United defenderMarc Burch's comments about returning to RFK, do yourself a favor and read them.

While those comments are sure to register withD.C.'s players, a final quote from the left-footed defender may draw the ire ofthe Black-and-Red's fans.

"RFK Stadium used to be one of the bestplaces in the league to play," Burch told Joshua Mayers of the SeattleTimes.  "Now it's Seattle, forsure."

Burch has started all three games so far this season for Seattle.

03 April 3:53 pm

Veteran forward Maicon Santos gives United much-needed strength up top

Watching Maicon Santos celebrate his first goal of the season early in Friday's 4-1 win over FC Dallas, it was clear that the veteran forward was playing with a sizable chip on his shoulder.  

For starters, Dallas happened to be Santos' last employer.  After trading for the Brazilian mid-way through last season, Schellas Hyndman and company chose not to pick up his option for 2012. On top of that, Santos' season was off to a frustrating start as just one of his nine shots on goal had made its way on target.

WatchingMaicon Santos celebrate his first goal of the season early in Friday's 4-1 winover FC Dallas, it was clear that the veteran forward was playing with asizable chip on his shoulder.  

Forstarters, Dallas happened to be Santos' last employer.  After trading for the Brazilianmid-way through last season, Schellas Hyndman and company chose not to pick uphis option for 2012. On top of that, Santos' season was off to afrustrating start as just one of his nine shots on goal had made its way ontarget.

Sowhen his 28th-minute blast easily bested ex-teammate Kevin Hartman,one can understand the intensity with which Santos celebrated.

"Ithink he was a little bit extra revved up because it was Dallas," Olsensaid afterwards.  "Playinga former team gets you a little more focused and more motivated."

"Iwas very inspired," Santos admitted.  "There is always more inspirationagainst your former team.  Itgives you a little bit more energy.  Itwas [a good night]."

Whilehis two goals and one assist were certainly welcome Friday night,it's not necessarily what is needed from Santos on a weekly basis.  With his bullish strength, the 28-year-old's most important characteristic is the ability to play with his back togoal. When midfielders and defender serve the ball forward, Santos hasquickly become D.C.'s best bet to keep possession. 

"Hebrings a different element to our team, one which we needed," said DwayneDe Rosario, who provided the assist on Santos' second tally Friday night.  "He's a guy that can bephysical.  He can take hitsfrom behind and hold the ball up and get guys into the play.  We really saw the best of that onFriday."

DeRosario can take extra satisfaction in the Brazilian's success knowing that hehelped bring Santos to Washington.  Thetwo played together while in Toronto, and the reigning MVP had no qualms inrecommending Santos to Olsen and his staff this offseason.

"Benasked me how he was in the locker room and I told him he's a good guy," added United's captain.  "He has a lotto offer.  Why not have aguy like that on your team if you have an opportunity to get a player of hiscaliber."

01 April 6:38 pm

A few leftovers from Friday evening's 4-1 win over FC Dallas

After a night where there were plenty of good storylines, here are a few leftovers from Friday evening's 4-1 win over FC Dallas.

BACK IN THE KITCHEN

Before kickoff against Dallas, United midfielder Perry Kitchen adequately described his role in a pre-match interview with Kyle Martino of the NBC Sports Network.

"I'm pumped to do the dirty work for him," Kitchen said when asked about playing behind Dwayne De Rosario.  "Hopefully he can work his magic."

Kitchen's willingness to do the dirty work has quickly endeared him to Head Coach Ben Olsen.  After playing three matches in five days with the Olympic team, Kitchen ninety minutes against Dallas and earned some serious praise from his coach.

"Not an easy week," Olsen said of his holding midfielder.  "He was shot from ten minutes in.  We asked a lot of him today and he gutted it out.  I'm really proud of him."

ANOTHER OLYMPIC HOPEFUL

While De Rosario turned in his most complete performance on Friday, D.C.'s captain wasn't going to stick around Washington long enough to enjoy it.  After the match, DeRo said he planned to travel to Toronto on Saturday where he'd watch Canada's U-23's in their Olympic qualifying showdown against Mexico.

The Canadians ended up losing 3-1 Saturday night in Kansas City, narrowly missing out on a chance at the Olympics.  Had they qualified, De Rosario may have also been headed to London.

"Of course I would be honored for a call-up," De Rosario had said earlier this week.  "It's any players dream to take part in world events like the Olympics and World Cup.  That would be a great day for Canadian soccer."

MAN OF THE MATCH 

Despite scoring four goals against Dallas, United were no less indebted to their goalkeeper than usual on Friday night.  Ben Olsen called Joe Willis his man of the match in the post-game press conference, and with good reason.   

The second-year goalie made a pair of impressive stops through the first ten minutes on Friday night, two big plays that kept D.C. from finding themselves in a catastrophic hole.

"If we go down early it changes the whole game," defender Daniel Woolard said afterwards.  "They can play more defensive and not have to stretch themselves out.  It was big.  He's made big saves in every game he's played in."

Four minutes in, a miscommunication between Emiliano Dudar and Kitchen gifted Ricardo Villar a point-blank opportunity in front of Willis.  The University of Denver product jumped off his line and pushed Villar's near-post attempt out for a corner.  Blas Perez then split D.C.'s central backs six minutes later, but Willis was there again using every bit of his 6-foot-5 frame to deny the Panamanian striker.

28 March 1:49 pm

Perry Kitchen returned to practice Wednesday after Monday's heartbreaking Olympic qualifying defeat

Operating on a short week ahead of Friday night's showdown with Dallas, D.C. United underwent a brief practice Wednesday morning. Here are a few notes from the light session, which ended in just over an hour.

OLYMPIC HEARTBREAK

Less than 48 hours after seeing his Olympic dreams dashed in the final moments of the United States' 3-3 draw with El Salvador on Monday night, United midfielder Perry Kitchen was back at practice with the Black-and-Red. By now accustomed to the back-and-forth nature of Olympic duty, Kitchen went right back to his familiar role, leading D.C. through a warm-up before doing some light ball work on the side as his teammates took part in small-sided games.

After practice, Kitchen opened up about Monday evening's heartbreak. The 20-year-old midfielder called the Olympics a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity adding that the failure to advance to London was 'tough to swallow'.

Despite playing three games in five days - and suffering a massive emotional letdown - Kitchen responded authoritatively when asked if he'd be ready if called upon Friday night against Dallas.

"Yea, of course. Honestly I think it's a positive to kind of find a rebound," noted United's second-year midfielder. "[To] get my mind off of it and get back with this team. This is now my main goal and focus so I think it will be positive."

HAMID HOBBLED

D.C. United's second American Olympic entry, goalkeeper Bill Hamid, went off injured in the first half of Monday's match. Head Coach Ben Olsen confirmed that the young goalie would undergo further tests late Wednesday on his left ankle, adding that the preliminary reports on Hamid's health ranged from a sprain to a bone bruise.

"If the scans say he's ready to go and he shows up tomorrow we'll have a decision to make," Olsen told reporters after practice. "I think Joe [Willis] has been fine and we trust Joe if we have to use him."

Olsen's faith in his back-up is understandable. Willis has earned a shutout in two of his five career starts, with both blank sheets coming against Vancouver.

FINAL FOUR FEVER

Just like offices across America, D.C. United's locker room is wrapped up in March Madness. With only three games left before the brackets are officially complete, a pair of wingers are poised to take the title of top hoops prognosticator.

Rookie Nick DeLeon and Chris Pontius enter the Final Four tied for first place. Both midfielders have Kansas winning it all, but DeLeon picked Louisville - his alma mater - to make the national title game alongside the Jayhawks while Pontius chose Kentucky as his other finalist.

"I'll be screaming at the TV for sure," laughed DeLeon, who sports a Louisville tattoo on his right arm.

At the other end of the spectrum is midfielder Danny Cruz. In charge of organizing the friendly locker room competition, Cruz was in last place entering the Sweet 16.

22 March 1:51 pm

Lance Rozeboom injured his knee in practice and will fly to D.C. for further evaluation

Some notes from the road as United prepares for the third match of its season on Saturday night.   

ROZEBOOM INJURED

After an impressive preseason run which earned him his first professional contract earlier this month, rookie midfielder Lance Rozeboom injured his left knee during practice this week.  Though United’s medical staff has not made a final diagnosis, Rozeboom will not be available for Saturday's match in Vancouver. 

Some notes from the road as United prepares for the third match of its season on Saturday night.   

ROZEBOOM INJURED

After an impressivepreseason run which earned him his first professional contract earlier thismonth, rookie midfielder Lance Rozeboom injured his left knee during practice this week.  Though United’s medicalstaff has not made a final diagnosis, Rozeboom will not be available forSaturday's match in Vancouver. 

The injury comes at themost disappointing juncture for Rozeboom, who was fresh off his first selectionto United's matchday side.  While he did not enter Sunday's contest against the Galaxy, the rookie out of NewMexico was available for selection after being left out of the top eighteen forthe season opener. 

Rozeboom will return toD.C. late Thursday afternoon for further evaluations.

OLYMPIC QUALIFYING

For a pair of D.C. Unitedstarters, the long road to London begins Thursday night when the U.S. U-23squad takes on Cuba for the first of three Olympic qualifying group phasematches.  Both Bill Hamid and PerryKitchen are expected to contribute heavily - and will likely start - againstthe underdog Cuban side.

"We are definitelyfeeling very good," Kitchen said from Nashville earlier this week.  "We are taking this one game at atime.  We know each match will betough and we are not looking past Cuba. [The three matches] do come quick though, so win, lose or tie we have tochange our focus.  We have to keepplugging through and get good results."

Midfielder Andy Najarwill also represent United at the qualifying tournament when he suits up forHonduras as they open group play on Friday against Panama.  Thursday's U.S. match will be televisedlive on Universal Sports Network and streamed live on concacaf.com.  Kickoff is slated for 9:00 p.m. from LPField.

A SPECIAL THANK YOU

Northern Virginia residentMichael Quin was one of seven Marines who passed away earlier this week whentwo helicopters collided during a training exercise in Yuma, Arizona.  Quin, who captained the soccer teamwhile attending Purcellville's Loudoun Valley High School, was a faithful D.C. United fan andhis family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the SemperFi Fund or United's charitable arm, United for D.C.  

United's players, coachesand staff thank Michael for his service and sacrifice while keeping the entireQuin family in our thoughts and prayers.

15 March 6:05 pm

United have plenty to work on during difficult road-trip to west coast

On Thursday, United held their final training session in Washington before departing on an ten-day road trip.  With matches against Los Angeles and Vancouver looming, we take a look at three keys that will help the Black-and-Red maximize points on their long journey from RFK.

SET PIECE DEFENDING

Four days before United's season opener, D.C. Head Coach Ben Olsen closed the final half-hour of practice to work on set-pieces.  So when Sporting Kansas City found their last-minute winner via a corner kick, it was disappointing on multiple levels.  Up until C.J. Sapong's breakthrough, the Black-and-Red had done well man-marking Kansas City's considerable aerial threats on free kicks.

Whether it is an on-going issue or a one-off mistake, United must sort out their set piece deficiencies on this road trip.  There is no better service on dead balls than that of David Beckham and - unless he gets the full 90 off on Sunday - D.C. can expect to have their hands full.  

Against Sporting, United didn't help themselves with some careless tackling in their defensive half.  The at times unnecessary fouls led to free kick chances, a luxury D.C. will be wise to deny both L.A. and Vancouver.

FINDING WIDTH

With the spine of the team still gelling, it makes sense that United will perhaps rely more on its wings now than at any other point in the season.  Fortunately for D.C., in Chris Pontius and Andy Najar the Black-and-Red have two players who can more than shoulder that load.

That being said, Najar and Pontius need to be used more.  In the opener, Pontius had tons of space on the left flank but rarely got the ball in a position to be dangerous.  Najar was a bit more involved early, but of the Honduran's 17 completed passes against Sporting just five were in United's attacking third.

IMPROVED PASSING

While Sporting applied plenty of pressure Saturday, D.C. committed an uncomfortable amount of passing errors.  Simply put, United did not have a good evening in distribution.

"There pressure was good but it wasn't pressure that you cant play through," Ben Olsen acknowledged during an appearance on The Capital Soccer Show.  "Our passing wasn't good all night long.  We had times where if we were just better in possession - A to B, ten and twenty yard passes - then we get a little rhythm and make them defend.  Overall our passing just wasn't sharp."

Unfortunately, the numbers support Olsen's take.  D.C. completed just 64% of its passes against Sporting, the lowest completion percentage across MLS on First Kick weekend.  Kansas City also owned the ball Saturday night, taking 57% of possession against the Black-and-Red.      

14 March 4:17 pm

Andy Najar speaks about his call-up to the Honduras U-23's

As preparations gear up for Sunday's match against the Los Angeles Galaxy, Head Coach Ben Olsen closed Wednesday's practice to the media.  Nevertheless, here are a few storylines from around RFK as United ramp up for the defending champions.

NAJAR CALL-UP

With yesterday's news of Andy Najar's call-up to the Honduran Under-23 side, the United midfielder was all smiles after Wednesday's training session.  Because Honduras is training in Los Angeles, Najar will play with D.C. on Sunday before joining Los Catrachos.

As for how Najar will be used by Honduras, the 18-year-old seems open to pretty much anything. 

"I'm ready for wherever the coach decides to put me," Najar said when asked about his position in a spanish-language interview on Wednesday.  "Just because you have a preferred position, doesn't mean you don't have to learn other positions as well.  Wherever I end up playing, I will give my all for the team."

Najar and his Honduran teammates are in CONCACAF's Group B, which will play at the Home Depot Center.  They'll face Panama (3/23), Mexico (3/25) and Trinidad & Tobago (3/27).  

NEAL JOINS THE MIX

Over a twelve-year career, Lewis Neal has worked tirelessly towards one goal ... playing top-flight soccer.  Until this week that goal had eluded the Englishman, but after signing with the Black-and-Red on Tuesday, the 30-year-old is ready to contribute right away.

"In my career I've played all across the midfield whether it's from the left to the right," Neal said when asked about where he might fit in to Ben Olsen's plans.  "I like to get the ball down and play, and keep the ball.  I've got a pretty trusty left foot, I like to think.  Hopefully I'll be able to show the D.C. United fans - when I get an opportunity - what I can do."

A comfortable and efficient player on the ball, Neal will be expected to provide cover in midfield as the season wears on.  The left-footed player is likely to back-up Chris Pontius, but can also play in a central role.

POP UP TOP

When United faces Los Angeles on Sunday, there's a chance that two of the most prolific scorers in all of Major League Soccer will be on display.

Hamdi Salihi brought 163 career goals with him when the Albanian striker signed with the Black-and-Red late last month, a number that is bested by only a trio of MLS players.

1 - Thierry Henry (326)
2 - Kris Boyd (208)
3 - Robbie Keane (188)

We'll have to wait until Sunday to see if Bruce Arena uses Keane, as the Galaxy forward is likely to have played in three games over a seven-day stretch.

12 March 1:44 pm

With a key road-trip on the horizon, United must quickly move past Saturday's disappointment

With the reality of Major League Soccer's 34-match schedule, getting too caught up in a single result is an exercise in both futility and foolishness.  And so, despite the disappointing nature of Saturday’s defeat, D.C. United forges ahead with plenty of opportunities left to erase the sour taste of opening night.

Still, the manner in which the Black-and-Red fell - giving up a stoppage time goal - brought back some familiar emotions for a group that saw point after point slip away late in 2011.

"It brings back memories," admitted Perry Kitchen on Saturday night.  "The only thing we can do is respond in the next game and not let that become another habit."

Though simple in principle, Kitchen's words won't be easy to carry out.  The months-long build up that accompanies opening day carries with it a certain amount of emotional baggage.  So close to delivering a blank-sheet against one of the most talented attacking teams in MLS, the Black-and-Red must overcome the psychological blow of last-minute disappointment.

"It's heartbreaking," added newcomer Robbie Russell.  "It can really kind of take the wind out of your sails and really demoralize a team.  But we've got to remember it's the first game of the season and they are a really good team."

Good may be an understatement when describing Sporting Kansas City.  Peter Vermes' front line is so loaded the young coach has the luxury of bringing U.S. National Team forward C.J. Sapong in off the bench.  Sapong dealt the fatal blow on Saturday from - of all places - a corner kick.  In light of last year's struggles, defensive set pieces have been a priority this preseason, making the manner in which Saturday's game-winner was scored as difficult to swallow as its timing. 

"It was on a corner kick.  That was the most disappointing part," Josh Wolff confirmed from United's locker room.  "[Last year] we did give up a lot of set pieces and we did give up a lot of late goals.  It's not something that we are too happy about."

If United's players need a model for how to shake off Saturday's malaise they need look no further than their coach.  During 2011 - when home results continuously eluded his team - Ben Olsen's post-game press conferences became tense affairs where the coach's facial expressions often told more than his words.  On Saturday night, a more upbeat Olsen praised his players for their work.

"The guys put on what was a hell of an effort," said United's second-year coach.  "They fought through fatigue and I thought should have earned the draw.  There are a lot of disappointed guys in that locker room."

When the team returns to training on Tuesday, that disappointment must give way to focus.  With an impending road trip that includes reigning champion Los Angeles and a much-improved Vancouver side, D.C. has little time to sulk.