United take off weekend to recharge, rethink
With a settled squad and a winning record, the Columbus Crewmay have reason to rue the scheduling quirk that handed them two bye weeksbefore the season is a month old. But D.C. United—winless, banged-up anddispirited—are more than ready to step back from the daily grind this weekendin the hopes of turning the page on their painful start to 2010.
After a week of focused training sessions, the team has beengiven Saturday and Sunday off, a somewhat unfamiliar hiatus for a group grown accustomedto frenetic schedules in recent years due to international competition. It’salso a timely break ahead of a busy stretch featuring four games in 11 days,starting with Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup play-in match against FC Dallas.
“When you’re on a roll, a bye week can disrupt the flow,” defenderDevon McTavish told MLSsoccer.com this week. “But when you have no flow, it’ssometimes good to get away from the game, from the guys in the locker room fora couple days, step back and come back fresh with a new mentality on Monday.”
McTavish is leaving D.C. to spend the weekend with hisfamily in Winchester, Va., while most of his teammates will linger at home anddecompress during one of United’s longest unstructured periods since the outsetof preseason training in February.
The bye week has given a welcome bit of extra recovery timeto those on United’s lengthy injury list and offered their healthier colleaguesan opportunity to bear down in training and prove themselves ready to step intothe first XI in the matches ahead.
“It feels like everything that could go wrong has gone wrongso far,” said Chris Pontius, one of several mainstays presently sidelined byhamstring troubles. “When you look at how many injuries we have on the teamright now, and to some key players, it’s hard for us to get into a rhythm rightnow. We have a lot of new faces that are going to have to step in and do thejob.”
The soccer gods have dealt D.C. one harsh blow after anotherthus far this year and the squad is aware that even at this early stage,further losses could significantly damage their hopes of keeping pace with therest of the Eastern Conference. But at United, the pressure generated by lossesand poor performances can become suffocating and the off weekend also provides arelease from the daily reality of doubt and disappointment in the wake of their0-4 start to the campaign.
“It’s good for the guys to get out, do something besidessoccer,” veteran winger Boyzzz Khumalo said after Thursday’s training sessionat RFK Stadium. “Because every time you come here, every day, you’re thinkingsoccer. You have a bad day at practice, you get frustrated, you know? So it’sgood just to get out, go watch a movie or something—go to the park and don’tthink about soccer, don’t even watch soccer. Just do something different.”