Namoff getting involved in DC attack
WASHINGTON -- A quick glance at D.C. United's 2009 statistics sheet reveals several predictable circumstances: Luciano Emilio, the club's most opportunistic finisher, tops the goal charts; playmaker Christian Gomez has been fouled more than anyone on the squad; aggressive young attacker Chris Pontius leads the team in shots taken.It might not be a surprise to see Santino Quaranta atop D.C.'s assists column with three, but the identity of the teammate who sits alongside him is highly unexpected. Eight games into the campaign, sturdy right back Bryan Namoff has already notched more assists than in his previous four seasons combined, and all have come from deep, searching balls played into space for United's reinvigorated strike force."Really? That's a shock," Namoff said when informed of his statistical distinction this week. "Any time you have forwards making great runs for you, it makes your job a lot easier. So all I have to do is put it into the space for them, and they do the rest. ... We finally have the runs to make me look good."But the numbers also hint at a growing refinement in the nine-year veteran's game, a sign that he continues to hone his craft even while sustaining a day-to-day consistency that makes him one of the club's most dependable players. Namoff played provider on Jaime Moreno's equalizing goal in last Saturday's 2-1 win over FC Dallas, a sequence he describes as a facsimile of one that had been countlessly re-enacted on the United training ground."It was funny, it was one of the exact type of plays that we've been practicing throughout training," Namoff said, "when one forward has been checking and the other one's going behind, and sometimes you have one of the attacking midfielders make that curling run to the back post. Sure enough, it just played out exactly like a training session."After nearly a decade in MLS, Namoff has learned to make the most of the daily grind. He began his career as a wide midfielder, but eventually found a home at right back and came to embrace the workmanlike aspects of defending -- even if it sometimes exposes him to the sort of locker-room teasing that the squad's flashier performers might evade. "We've been working on it and amazingly, after eight years as a pro he's actually getting it right," joked D.C. head coach Tom Soehn of his defender's assist on Saturday. "No -- he's been working on it a lot. He's really taking pride in his game, and it shows."Beyond his unforeseen contributions to the attack, Namoff has also been quite reliable at the back, crucially providing a stabilizing presence amid United's corps of youngsters and newcomers.Soehn switched his side into a 3-5-2 formation in the final days of preseason, and the similarly late signing of Canadian center back Dejan Jakovic could easily have led to early-season adversity for the defense. But at the urging of the coaching staff, Namoff has taken a more active role in coordinating the line and all involved have benefited."I think Namoff's one of the best defenders in the league," said left back Marc Burch. "He's a shut-down defender -- any time he has a job to do, he does it. He's great one-on-one, he's great talking in the back. I think he's brought a big, vocal leadership to the team and I'm just learning from him. What he says, I do, and what I say, he does. So it's a good communication throughout our back and it starts with him."Though the Black-and-Red defense has logged only one clean sheet in league play, the team grows more comfortable and confident with each passing week and have looked increasingly stingy over the course of their ongoing five-game unbeaten streak."I think we're getting stronger and stronger through the run of play, defensively," said Namoff. "We're learning each other. With Dejan being a young center back, that's a tough position to play, especially in a back three. So he's starting to get a little bit more comfortable in that position, he's starting to communicate a little more -- still needs to communicate a little more, but we're learning to react off of each other."Namoff has also stepped up his media presence -- taking a cue from a video clip played at Washington Capitals hockey games, he claims to have made "unleash the Namoff" a personal mantra in '09. He has helped promote his wife Nadine's charitable work for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and uses the Twitter website to share brief tidbits of his life with fans and friends, such as one evening last month when he found himself in the company of NBA star LeBron James at a function in D.C. (Namoff presented James with a replica United jersey.)Reinvention doesn't happen overnight, however. Namoff's defensive mates have benefited from his leadership on the field, but remain unlikely to follow his foray into the world of online media technology."I don't think so," said Burch, when asked if other members of the team are signing up for Twitter. "He's been getting a hard time for it, so I don't know if anybody else is going to try it out."