United turn to Allsopp for finishing touch
WASHINGTON -- D.C. United striker Danny Allsopp has spent less than two weeks with his new team since joining the club's preseason workouts in Bradenton, Fla. on Feb. 11, which would traditionally make him a target for locker-room pranksters looking to enliven the confined, often-monotonous routines of training camp."Not yet," he chuckled when asked about such hijinks late last week. "I'm keeping my head down and keeping a low profile, waiting for something."Whether his D.C. teammates have left him in peace out of respect for a well-traveled veteran or simply to avoid provoking one of the largest players on the roster, United hope that their newest foreign acquisition doesn't remain inconspicuous for long.The brawny Australian has been brought to the nation's capital to spearhead a Black-and-Red frontline that has rarely failed to create scoring chances in recent years, but all too often went begging for a capable and consistent finisher to tuck those opportunities home.The move represents a departure from United's standard operating procedure, and a bit of a risk as well. The club has habitually looked to Latin America for attacking talent, with a particular focus on creativity and intuition. Given his build, history and nationality, the arrival of Allsopp -- a veteran of the English second and third divisions who will become the first-ever Aussie to take the field in Major League Soccer when he makes his D.C. debut -- would seem to portend a more rugged, direct approach.Along with Adam Cristman, another newcomer who seems to have been obtained by head coach Curt Onalfo as a like-for-like alternative, Allsopp offers a significantly different skills set from United's incumbent strikers. Onalfo values a physical presence up front and beyond ruthless scoring instincts around goal, Allsopp is expected to offer a useful touchstone for his teammates' passes and runs. But both player and club believe a label like "target man" only tells part of the story."I don't know if you'd say he's a traditional target forward," said D.C. general manager Dave Kasper last month. "He's good with his back to goal, but he's also pretty mobile and he's got good feet, he's a good soccer player."Allsopp showed those capabilities with his hometown club Melbourne Victory earlier this decade, helping establish the club's A-League dominance alongside the likes of Australian international Archie Thompson and former United midfielder Fred. While he's still getting acquainted with his D.C. colleagues, he is optimistic about slotting into a similar role for his new team."A lot of people think maybe when they see me that I'm going to be like an old-fashioned center forward, to hold up the ball for the team -- which I do," said Allsopp. "But I think there's a lot more to my game than that. ... I move around a lot more than someone that just sort of receives long balls on the chest."Judging by his early contributions in United's Bradenton activities, Allsopp has found his feet quickly despite a daunting transition period. His journey from Australia to Florida took nearly 24 hours and his wife and two young sons remain back in Melbourne, waiting for him to finally reach the Washington area and commence the house-hunting process when the team returns to D.C. on Friday. Having just recently wrapped up a brief stint with Al-Rayyan in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, Allsopp sounds eager to settle quickly in the United States."The league's made a bit of a reputation around the world. Everyone knows about it and I'm looking forward to being part of it," he said of MLS. "I just want to do well for the club and for myself, and try and enjoy my time here in the States. It's a great opportunity for me and I'm hoping to be part of a successful team."Allsopp has represented his country at the youth and senior international levels, but national team coach Pim Verbeek was critical of his last performance for the Socceroos about a year ago and has not called him in for duty since, leaving him on the margins of the Aussies' World Cup plans."If I can do well here for D.C. then you never know what could happen, but I think I'd be crazy if I planned anything around making the national team," said Allsopp. "It seems like I'm out of the picture at the moment so I'll just get on with it, try to enjoy my football and do as well as I can."