United's Vaughn eager to face former squad
WASHINGTON -- Lawson Vaughn is surprisingly serene when describing his harrowing 2008 season. After establishing himself as a first-team regular with Chivas USA over the first three years of his professional career, the defender was hit by a miserable spate of injuries as fate seemed determined to cram a lifetime's worth of ailments into one campaign."I started off the season with surgery to my ankle, so I started the season a little bit late," said Vaughn. "Then maybe four games in, against Houston, I got kicked in the face by [Dwayne] DeRosario -- that sidelined me for a few months."I had two surgeries, came back, played a couple games, [sprained] my MCL. Sat out a couple weeks, came back and ended up having to cut the season early to have reconstruction on my ankle."Vaughn's clash with De Rosario's boot -- sustained as the Canadian international attempted a bicycle kick on a corner kick sequence -- left him with a broken nose and a gash that required 32 stitches to repair. A faint scar across his cheek provides a lingering memento of the grisly incident.Yet his left ankle problems turned out to be nearly as debilitating: first he battled tendonitis, then had to undergo a complex procedure involving ligament reconstruction and bone spur removal in October of last year. The healing process stretched out over six months and even though Vaughn took part in Chivas USA training sessions starting in April, he remained short of full fitness by late summer and the club waived him in late August."I could kind of see it coming, to be honest with you. We had a lot of players -- we had a few guys on the DL that I knew were capable of playing. So it kind of came down to numbers," said Vaughn. "When I came back, the guys that were playing were playing well. I understand it's a business, so somebody had to go, and I hadn't played in a while."Nonetheless it was another discouraging blow for the Marietta, Georgia native, a knock to his psyche after months of wear and tear on his body. But his recovery was nearly at hand and within weeks he found himself moving east to make a new start, with a new team, in a new setting.D.C. United had suffered a sudden injury epidemic among their defensive corps and needed Vaughn to help provide cover in the back. He arrived in the nation's capital with modest expectations, and made no secret of it."The defenders here are very good, so competing for a spot is tough," he said. "With it being so late in the season, I understand it's going to be hard to get a starting spot. So I just want to come in and help the team whenever I get a chance. I think my role this year may be more as a backup, to give some guys like [Bryan] Namoff, [Devon] McTavish a break, since we've got a lot of games coming up."But Namoff was soon sidelined by the lingering after-effects of a concussion, and D.C. boss Tom Soehn called on Vaughn to fill the resulting hole in the right side of the United defense. He's shown well in two starts at right back, quickly striking up a rapport with his new teammates despite the patchwork nature of the back line."He's had some injury problems in the past but he has the experience and he's a good player, a very good defender. So you lose one, you gain one," said center back Julius James. "When Namoff comes back, I think Lawson is going to make it difficult for the coaches to make a decision, and that is how a team should be."As it happens, Vaughn's next opportunity to contribute could come against his old club as Chivas USA visit RFK Stadium for a massive match on Saturday. Both teams are chasing a spot in the playoffs and while the Red-and-White are better positioned thanks to their games in hand, neither side can afford to surrender any points to what is essentially a direct competitor for a wild card berth.Vaughn said he bears no ill will towards Chivas head coach Preki and his staff, but his thoughts on the match suggest that he's eager to show well against his former mates -- and with their postseason hopes on the line, United can certainly use a motivated display from their newest defender."If I'm lucky to get picked for that match, it's going to be exciting," said Vaughn. "I know a lot of the players; I'm familiar with them. [Sacha] Kljestan's been playing on the left for them; I used to play on the right with him, so I know their tendencies and stuff. I think it will be a good match."