Reserves play key roles for United
WASHINGTON -- Moments after members of the media were allowed into D.C. United's RFK Stadium locker room after their 1-0 victory over Kansas City on Wednesday night, Devon McTavish glanced up to find a throng of reporters waiting to interview him as he pulled off his game socks after logging a full 90 minutes against the Wizards.First looking surprised, then amused, United's jack-of-all-trades cracked, "Where you guys been?"McTavish's locker has received fewer postgame visits from the media thus far this season as the versatile 25-year-old has seen a fraction of the playing time he got last year, thanks in large part to the club's offseason roster acquisitions.But just like the D.C. coaching staff predicted earlier in the campaign, he and his fellow reserves are now being counted upon to step up and assume important roles at a crucial juncture for the Black-and-Red. Nagging injuries to defenders Marc Burch and Dejan Jakovic have required them to undergo ankle and sports hernia surgery, respectively, opening up a substantial hole in the United back line at a time when the club needs a string of positive results in order to reach the postseason."We're going to make do with the roster we have," said head coach Tom Soehn last week. "We knew this time was coming."After pairing midfielder Clyde Simms with Julius James at center back in Dallas over the weekend, Soehn turned to McTavish on Wednesday, and the utility man held his own at the heart of defense despite having logged most of his '09 minutes in the midfield."I'm fairly comfortable. I spent a couple years back there the last few seasons," said McTavish of the center back role. "There is a little rust, but I feel like I stepped in and did OK -- we kept the shutout."One of the motives behind United's recent move to a four-man defense is the simplification of responsibilities involved in the formation, which is more familiar to most players and requires less stringent organization. With a flurry of important matches ahead, Soehn will have to depend on McTavish and others to step in and make as seamless a transition as possible."We're obviously short in the back and Devon's been a guy we've moved around a lot," said Soehn on Wednesday. "I think he had a pretty stellar performance back there, stepping into something he hasn't done a whole lot this year. So credit to him, it's not always easy to do but he did a solid job back there."On the wing, Avery John slotted in at left back for the final half-hour as United closed up shop and defended their lead over K.C. Soehn started Rodney Wallace in the role against the Wizards but seems to value the rookie's contributions in midfield, so the veteran Trinidadian is another bench player who will be expected to perform when called upon in the weeks ahead."We wanted to settle it down and bring in some experience and I thought Avery did a great job coming in at left back," said the D.C. boss. "He's a veteran guy, he understands what it takes to shore up a game."Despite the result, Kansas City got in behind United's back line on numerous occasions and D.C.'s next opponents, Seattle Sounders FC, are likely to be far more ruthless if presented with similar opportunities at RFK this Saturday. But with a playoff spot on the line, the Black-and-Red's patchwork defense will be content to judge themselves by results like Wednesday night's."We got three points," said goalkeeper Josh Wicks. "Regardless of who's on the field, the person has got to get the job done and tonight we got the job done, however we did it."