Wolff ready for leadership role at D.C. United

Veteran striker relishes opportunity to help turn around new team

For the third time in his 12-year MLS career, Josh Wolff will be playing for a new team.

After starting his career with the Chicago Fire back in 1998, Wolff’s second stop was Kansas City, with a stint in Germany sandwiched in the middle. On Wednesday, he was acquired in the Re-Entry Draft, and will call Washington his home in 2011.

For Wolff, it’s a change of scenery and a chance to help turn around D.C. United, a club coming off one of its worst seasons in club history. The 33-year-old is optimistic about his new club — and the new season.

“I look forward to getting there," Wolff told MLSsoccer.com. "It will be a big challenge, but that’s every season. As you know, there’s a lot of parity, so if you can make some moves and make a team better, obviously you can get off to a decent start and things can kind of fall your way throughout the season.”

Bringing in Wolff, an accomplished MLS striker with a decent international pedigree, is one of several moves United have made this offseason. DC also acquired forward Joseph Ngwenya in the first day of the Re-Entry Draft and brought in midfielder Dax McCarty in an Expansion Draft day trade with the Portland Timbers.

After the departure of Jaime Moreno, midfielder Santino Quaranta remains the longest tenured member of the Black-and-Red on the current roster. The addition of Wolff is expected to not only add to the offense but to also help a team with talented young players improve and raise their level of play.

“For me, it’s about being part of a team that’s growing — certainly putting my stamp on it in the way that I can within the group, but mainly to help everyone get better,” Wolff said.

Quaranta showed enthusiasm for the acquisition of not only Wolff, but his other new teammates and the sort of impact they could have in the nation’s capital. “Guys have to understand that the culture’s going to change a little bit in the locker room,” Quaranta told MLSsoccer.com “Accepting losses is not going to be good enough, and I feel like last year if we lost, people weren’t affected as much as a guy like Josh, and myself and Dax will be. [Wolff] is a leader and he’s somebody that will certainly help us.”

Like many other players who have been around the block at a high level, Wolff has a lot of previous experience playing both with and against Ben Olsen. The two played alongside each other for the national team at the youth and senior levels, specifically at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2006 World Cup.

Next season, the roles will be a little bit different as Olsen will be Wolff’s coach, entrusting his veteran striker to be a vocal leader on a young team.

“I suspect our relationship will work differently,” Wolff said. “Obviously, as a player and a coach, most of those relationships take on different paths. But it’s something that [Olsen] has the expectation of me coming in and being a voice and a presence in the group, and working with the younger guys and with the older guys.”

Now in the later stages of his career, Wolff acknowledged that being the elder statesman is an important intangible for a team to have. Back in 1998, when he came into the league with the Fire, the wealth of experience that club possessed buoyed the rookie.

“When you have a group of guys like we had – it was a number of guys, 28, 30, 35, it makes a big impact on young players,” Pontius said. “When I was 20 years old, I had the likes of Chris Armas, Frank Klopas, Peter Nowak and Ante Razov.”

Twelve years later, those roles will be reversed, with Wolff now playing the role of mentor and leader to young attacking players like Chris Pontius, and Andy Najar in particular. Pontius, currently rehabbing an injury that plagued his 2010 campaign in California, can’t wait to play alongside someone with Wolff’s experience.

“He’s someone that I can learn a lot from being an attacking player, and in a lot of other areas,” he said. “As a young player, you’re always looking for guidance and direction, and I think that’s what [he] can provide for us.”

The holidays are closing in on DC, and the next two weeks will be slow. But Wolff will be in town next week, searching for a place to live. Bringing a large family that is looking forward to be moving to a new place, he hopes to be settled shortly after the New Year.

“DC’s a great city with a lot to offer, and my family’s excited about it," he said. "I have four kids: three boys and a daughter – so as a group we’re very excited about seeing a new part of the country, and obviously continuing to play soccer and enjoying that aspect as well."

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