Locker room catches Caps fever

24 April 2:00 pm

Locker room catches Caps fever

By Sebastian Salazar

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."