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.
United’s Head Coach and Head Athletic Trainer talk about the first day of preseason
An energetic Ben Olsen and coaching staff greeted players this morning as D.C. United officially reconvened at RFK Stadium for the start of 2012 preseason.
We asked United’s Head Coach about the first day with the group.
What are your initial thoughts on having the group back together again?
Olsen: “It’s always nice when everybody comes back together. We have a few new faces and several trialists in our group, so it’s a good day to get re-acquainted with everyone. This week will involve a lot of physical preparation to make sure we know where everybody is standing, so we can move ahead with more intensity. It was a great day to get back to work, and I think there is a really positive vibe right now.”
There are several key players coming back from injuries, such as Branko Boskovic, Chris Pontius and Ethan White. How is their recovery process coming along?
Olsen: “Branko is ready to go, Chris is moving along very well, and Ethan is jogging. Everybody is moving along at a really good pace. Hopefully in the next week or two we will have a full squad, with everybody healthy. Preseason is a long journey and you have plenty of time to get these guys fit. As much as we want them back, we need to be smart and patient and make sure we are not pushing them too quickly.”
How did 2012 SuperDraft pick Nick DeLeon do on his first day?
Olsen: “He came in today and got acquainted with the guys and saw how we do things around here. We will know more about him going forward, but he seems like a good kid and really eager to learn and work out here.”
Speaking of draft picks, with the departure of Clyde Simms, what are your thoughts on Perry Kitchen filling in the role of defensive midfielder this season?
Olsen: “I don’t think it’s any secret that our plans with him were to put him centrally [in midfield]. We think he has a lot of qualities that are going to make us a better team in that central area. It’s a key area, and Perry has both the leadership qualities and physical presence to get us to another level. He is dealing with turf toe, but should be ready to go in the next couple of days.”
BEGINNING OF 'A LONG JOURNEY'
As Olsen mentioned, United's preseason is "a long journey" and with several phases. D.C. United Head Athletic Trainer Brian Goodstein emphasized Olsen's point and said the focus is to have the team ready for First Kick 2012 on March 10 against Sporting KC.
How did the guys look on the first day?
Goodstein: "Good. We are just getting to know these guys. The first week is a gradual introduction process and getting baseline fitness as a group."
What's next this week?
Goodstein: "We are running the Cooper Test tomorrow. Wednesday is the beep test."
What are the goals for preseason?
Goodstein: "The big goal is to get ready for the opener, to get ready to peak in the middle [of the season] and get ready to peak for playoffs and make these guys champions."