How was your holiday break?
Joe Willis: It’s been pretty awesome. Back in St. Louis for pretty much all of it, hanging out with my family, so it was a pretty good break.
Do you have a lot of friends who are still back in St. Louis?
JW: Yeah, a lot high school friends I hadn’t seen in a while, so it was good times.
So, when are you leaving for England?
JW: I’m leaving tonight – my flight is at 6:15 p.m.
Are you all packed and ready to go?
JW: Ha! Nope. I am not packed at all, haven’t even started packing. Yeah…I know. It’s going to be a pretty busy day – have to take care of a bunch of stuff before I head over there, but it should be alright.
How did this opportunity to train with Sunderland materialize?
JW: A little while ago, [D.C. United goalkeeping coach] Pat [Onstad] came up to me and told me that there might be an opportunity for me to train with an English team over the break and he asked me if I wanted to do it, and I told him, ‘Absolutely.’ Anytime you have an opportunity to train with a Premier League team, you’re not really going to pass it up.
How long are you over there?
JW: I’ll be over there until – so I fly over there tonight [January 8] and I’ll be flying back on January 16.
Have you ever been to England or any other part of Europe?
JW: I have been. I went to England, actually I trained with three different teams for three weeks right before I got drafted by DC. So basically, this time two years I was over there. That’s the only time I’ve been over there.
Which teams were you training with two years ago?
JW: I spent a week with Tottenham Hotspur, I spent a week with Fulham and then I spent a week in Wales with Cardiff City.
So, you’ve had experience being over there. How would you say living and playing in the U.K. is different from the U.S., if at all?
JW: It’s fun, I like it. It’s pretty similar, to be honest, as far as the way they go about their daily business. It’s a little more high-profile, I guess, but it’s pretty similar.
What are you hoping to accomplish with this training stint?
JW: My goals are really to enjoy myself and take it as a learning experience, try to learn as much as I can from the coaches I have over there. It’s always fun to get a fresh perspective from different coaches.
With Andy [Najar] being over there in Belgium, are there any plans for you guys to meet up and grab a Belgian waffle over there or some fish and chips in England?
JW: Ha, I don’t think so. I haven’t talked to Andy. I’m sure he’s pretty busy, and I’ll be pretty busy over there, so I don’t think I’ll be meeting up with him.
Having played 11 games last season, what goals have you set for yourself for this year?
JW: Really, I’m just always trying to get better. Whatever happens, happens – whether I play or Bill [Hamid] plays or Andrew [Dykstra] plays or whoever, I’m really just trying, always trying, to get better. So, whatever happens will happen and the only thing I can control is making yourself better.
What is the biggest difference you have seen in your game now versus your rookie season in 2011?
JW: Definitely, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with all of it. I’ve gotten to know the guys and everyone in the D.C. United organization and you know, having two years experience now definitely feels a lot more comfortable. I’ve definitely gotten a lot better as a player with the coaching staff at D.C. United and I’m less nervous and more excited now.
What areas specifically in your goalkeeping have you seen improvement in?
JW: I would say that my positioning has gotten a lot better. That was one of Pat’s [Onstad] strong points as a player, so that’s something he’s been able to pass on to myself and the other goalies. Reading the game and communicating – it can still be better for me, but it’s definitely gotten better since I joined.
How proud were you of one of your DC training partners, Bill [Hamid], getting called up again to the U.S. Men’s National Team?
JW: Oh yeah, it’s great. Bil’’s a good goalie and he deserves it, so it’s exciting to see him get called into the National Team. It’s tough having him on the same team when it’s a position where only one guy can play, but it’s also good having strong competition in your spot because it makes me better and helps motivate me to be better.
Now I think the most important question that our fans want to know – how’s the beard coming along?
JW: Ha, the beard is coming along. It’s not quite where I want it yet, but it’s definitely getting there. It hasn’t really been touched since I started growing it [in November], so it’s getting a little wild, a little out of control.
So, you’re pretty much committed to a year of this?
JW: Yeah, I’m committed to a year, but we’ll see. I’m going to play it by ear and see how it goes. I still got, like, seven or eight months left to grow it, so in a few months once it starts getting a little longer, we’ll see. Right now the plan is for the next seven or eight months to keep it growing.
In a recent post on MLSsoccer.com, editors chose D.C. United as a team primed for a deeper playoff run in 2013, saying that with the return of a healthy Dwayne De Rosario, United could be a, "real title contender."
Perhaps just as compelling as a healthy De Rosario is the wealth of young talent in the Black-and-Red core. With an average age of 25, United is among the most youthful squads in MLS. But in this case, youth does not equal inexperience. United's roster boasts the 2012 MLS All Star MVP, 2012 MLS Best XI selection and 2009 MLS Rookie of the Year Runner-Up Chris Pontius (25) and three other Rookie of the Year finalists in just as many seasons: Nick DeLeon (22), emerging center midfield star Perry Kitchen (20), and 2012 Olympian and homegrown standout Andy Najar (19), the 2010 Rookie of the Year. Additionally, starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid (22) - the first D.C. United Acadmey product to sign directly with the first team – led all MLS netminders in saves percentage (78.6%) and registered the third-best GAA (1.03) in 2012.
With its captain back to full form and a young roster, who turned more than a few heads in 2012, United is indeed set to contend for the Cup in 2013.
From around the globe, D.C. United players reflect on 2012 and look forward to 2013.
Happy NY. Thanks to all of you who have supported & may 2013 be filled with health & strength...
— Dwayne De Rosario (@dwaynederosario) January 1, 2013
Haappy New Year to Everyone!! Let's try n make the world a better place, starting w ourselves!! #Peace&Love
— Brandon McDonald (@BMcDonald4) January 1, 2013
Happy 2013!!! God Bless Everyone...Feliz 2013!! Deus abençoe a todos ... Grande bjao@ Balneario Camboriu instagr.am/p/T6x6fQvsWy/
—M.Saragosa (@MarceloSaragosa) December 31, 2012
— Chris Pontius (@ChrisPontius13) December 31, 2012
Despite his teammates not naming him the "Best at FIFA" in this year's superlatives, Bill Hamid is one of D.C. United's FIFA enthusiasts. Recently he sat down with ESPN to talk about his playing style and how being a professional soccer player has helped him become better at the video game.
"You know at certain points when to cross when you see runners going. You know when to bring the keeper out when there’s a breakaway. Being a pro soccer player, you figure those things out easier," explained Hamid. Read the full article on ESPN now.
Yesterday, MLS and adidas unveiled the new official match ball for 2013. The adidas PRIME features a few updates from it's 2012 version, including a slightly new look and upgraded technology.
The updates make the PRIME more water resistant and increasingly more aerodynamic with a cutting-edge panel bonding technique. The ball features a matte finish with slight texture to help with ball control, while changes to the bladder help prevent air and shape loss across all weather conditions.
The PRIME keeps it's traditional MLS colors of green, blue and white, while it also still features the signature of League Commissioner Don Garber. The design change is in the shapes, which were changed to emulate the handles of the Philip F. Anschutz trophy.
D.C. United faces Houston on March 2, 2013 marking their first match with the new ball.
With the holidays upon us, D.C. United players share their travel and celebration plans with fans via Twitter.
Chris Pontius heads back home.
Last day in DC before I head back to Cali for the holidays. Busy busy busy
— Chris Pontius (@ChrisPontius13) December 20, 2012
Dwayne De Rosario is looking for the best place to celebrate the New Year. Any suggestions?
Best New Years party destination???
— Dwayne De Rosario (@dwaynederosario) December 19, 2012
Dejan Jakovic spends time with family.
It's always nice to be back home with the fam
— Dejan Jakovic (@DejanJakovic) December 20, 2012
Marcelo Saragosa finds time to enjoy a poolside vacation.
Do you ever wonder what professional athletes do during the offseason? It's easy to keep up with D.C. United players through their Tweets.
For veteran captain Dwayne De Rosario, work never stops. DeRo plays an active role in his winter camp series:
Was real nice to see all the kids at my #derofutbol development & power training session today. Keep up the good work the future is bright!
— Dwayne De Rosario (@dwaynederosario) December 8, 2012
Cool runnings on earlier...now Home Alone is on. Becoming best friends with the couch today
— Chris Pontius (@ChrisPontius13) December 11, 2012
Dexter and Homeland were intense! Season Finales gonna be crazy!
— Perry Kitchen (@PerryKitchen23) December 10, 2012
Dejan Jakovic shares his passion for DC sports:
— Dejan Jakovic (@DejanJakovic) December 3, 2012
Wizards playing some good basketball right now vs the Heat
— Dejan Jakovic (@DejanJakovic) December 5, 2012
Brandon McDonald travels visit friends and family:
— Brandon McDonald (@BMcDonald4) December 10, 2012
— Brandon McDonald (@BMcDonald4) November 29, 2012
— Brandon McDonald (@BMcDonald4) November 26, 2012
Off to training
— Bill Hamid (@BillHamid28) December 13, 2012
From Left: Ethan White, Chris Pontius, Brian Orakpo (Redskins #98), Fred Davis (Redskins #83), Kurt Morsink, Dejan Jakovic. Photo Credit: Washington Redskins
Last night, defender Dejan Jakovic, midfielder Chris Pontius and defender Ethan White, as well as Scouting Coordinator Kurt Morsink, watched RGIII lead the Washington Redskins (6-6) to a 17-16 grudge match win over the New York Giants (7-5).
While the G-Men have the overall edge in this rivalry – compiling a 93-65-4 record and winning four Super Bowls over the Redskins’ three – the exciting talent of rookie QB Robert Griffin III has Washington prime to change the tides. Comparably, D.C. United has dominated its series against Atlantic Cup Foes New York Red Bulls, posting an all-time 32-20-9 mark. In fact, no other club has defeated a team as much the Black-and-Red has beat the Red Bulls.
Tweet Tweet - United players share pictures and thoughts from their Monday Night Football experience
— Chris Pontius (@ChrisPontius13) December 3, 2012
— Dejan Jakovic (@DejanJakovic) December 3, 2012
— Chris Pontius (@ChrisPontius13) December 3, 2012
— Ethan White (@EthanWhite15) December 3, 2012
Big win by the skins!
— Dejan Jakovic (@DejanJakovic) December 4, 2012
Pontius, DeLeon, Hamid and Kitchen all ascend December’s list after impressive MLS Cup playoff appearances
Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon, Bill Hamid and Perry Kitchen all increased their player ratings from November to December in American Soccer Now’s (ASN) 100. Voted on by the likes of former U.S. Men’s National Team players (USMNT) – Jimmy Conrad, Alexi Lalas and Kyle Martino – as well as members of the soccer media, such as Grant Wahl, Jason Davis and Brian Sciaretta, among others, the list ranks the American player pool from 1-100.
Moving up three spots to #22, Pontius looks prime to earn a spot in the USMNT’s upcoming January camp. In the biggest Black-and-Red jump for the month, DeLeon catapulted 11 spots to #50. The rookie had two goals in the MLS playoffs – United’s first post-season appearance since 2007 – including the game-winner against the New York Red Bulls in Leg 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Hamid shows up not far behind, at #52 (up two spots from November), jumping ahead of Chicago Fire netminder Sean Johnson. And 20-year-old Perry Kitchen continues his gradual ascend, climbing six spots up to #64.
The next USMNT camp will occur on Jan. 14, and will include no more than 23 players. Typically pooling from MLS and players in the Scandinavian leagues, DeLeon, Hamid, Kitchen and Pontius could very well be in the mix. Immediately following this camp (and a possible friendly), Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann will select the roster that will kickstart the Hexagonal Round of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying on Feb. 6 against Honduras.
Today, the Canadian Soccer Association announced the list of nominees for the BMO Canadian Players of the Year Award. Among the list was D.C. United midfielder Dwayne De Rosario. The award will be voted on by Canadian media and coaches.
De Rosario appeared in five matches for the Canadian National Team in 2012, notching one goal, a game-winner over Panama in World Cup Qualifying. With 71 total appearances and 20 goals, De Rosario is Canada's all-time leading goal scorer.
2012 BMO Canadian Player of the Year nominees:
- Patrice Bernier | CAN / Impact Montréal / Brossard, QC
- Julian de Guzman | USA / FC Dallas / Scarborough, ON
- Dwayne De Rosario | USA / DC United | Scarborough, ON
- André Hainault | USA / Houston Dynamo | Hudson, QC
- Lars Hirschfeld | NOR / Vålerenga Fotball | Edmonton, AB
- Atiba Hutchinson | NED / PSV Eindhoven | Brampton, ON
- Kevin McKenna | GER / FC Köln | Calgary, AB
- Olivier Occean | GER / Eintracht Frankfurt | Brossard, QC
- other selection/ autre