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Tuesday training notes

21 February 3:05 pm

Tuesday training notes

By Sebastian Salazar

Dudar shows class with leadership and distribution

Less than a day ahead of departing for Carolina Challenge Cup, D.C. United held a spirited training session at Arlington’s Long Bridge Park. Here are some quick notes from Tuesday’s practice.

CLASS AT THE BACK

Reports of the skillful play of central back Emiliano Dudar were among the first things we heard from United's two preseason trips. With a pedigree that includes Europa League, Champions League and Copa Libertadores, Dudar has obviously plied his trade at the highest level, nevertheless, a transition to MLS brings with it no guarantees.

Working alongside Dejan Jakovic at Tuesday's training session, Dudar's skill was on full display. Far cooler under pressure than the typical MLS defender, the Argentine excels in distribution. During an 11-v-11 scrimmage, Dudar hit a dead-sprint towards the loose ball on the sideline with a pair of attackers in hot pursuit. After beating them both to it, the 29-year-old controlled the ball with his right foot, spun, and split another pair of defenders with a left-footed pass that sprung Josh Wolff on a counter attack. Though he made the play look simple, it was of a caliber that is rarely seen on MLS practice fields.

Asked afterwards about the play, and his distribution out of the back in general, Dudar offered a modest response.

"I don't know, maybe there aren't players who do that type of thing, but I'm just trying to bring my positive qualities to the group," Dudar said in a Spanish-language interview after practice. "I'm here first to prove to myself that I can play in this league and to prove to the people who believe in me that I'm at a level to play at a big club like D.C."

PUTTING IN THE EXTRA WORK

At a season-ticket holder meeting late last season, Ben Olsen was asked about the emerging trend in world soccer where right backs are as important to an attack as any midfielder or forward. The first-year coach acknowledged that it was an element he wanted to add to United's style, but that there were more pressing concerns with his defense than its ability to get forward.

Fast-forward to Tuesday morning, where, as most of United's players trickled off the practice field a pair stayed behind to hit right-footed crosses. Midfielder Danny Cruz was joined by Robbie Russell, who figures to occupy the right flank of D.C.'s back four.

"It's something I enjoy doing," Russell said after Tuesday's session. "I like getting forward and I like getting assists, it's a part of playing that is important to me personally. If it can then be worked to where the team needs it, all the better.

It's not necessarily just about getting crosses in, it's just getting forward and getting that look every once in a while where you have that option out wide."

SET PIECE SPECIALIST

Set pieces are a key component of every team's preseason preparations, but the emphasis is clear at United's practices. During Tuesday's scrimmage, free kicks were handed out in dangerous spots all over the field, and if the execution wasn't just right - from offense or defense - the dead ball situation was tried again.

Two things stood out from all this.

First, Andy Najar continues to be D.C.'s best option for taking offensive set pieces. The 18-year-old's ability to hit driven balls in behind defenses has only improved in the offseason, and even his corner kicks created issues.

Second, is that the defensive lapses that killed D.C.'s playoff chances a year ago will not be tolerated. When midfielder Nick DeLeon slipped wide open on a well-hit free kick from rookie Lance Rozeboom, Ben Olsen came rushing in from the sideline with some choice words - and instructions - for the defensive group that allowed the opportunity.

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