King looks to play central role for D.C. United

Youngster started 16 games in 2010, but faces new competition

Stephen King comes into his first full season with D.C. United a man on a mission.

This year, he’s out to stake a claim on a starting position in what will be a crowded central midfield in the nation’s capital.

A series of offseason moves has bolstered United’s center of the park – most notably Dax McCarty, who could very well slot in alongside stalwart Clyde Simms. And don’t forget some other realistic options like Designated Player Branko Boskovic, rookie Perry Kitchen or returning reserve Kurt Morsink.

With that in mind, King went to work in January, training on a daily basis, one of seven or eight United players who stayed in Washington during the offseason.

“I’m a big believer in preparation and making sure your body’s ready to go and mentally you’re ready to go,,” he told MLSsoccer.com, "so I went in Monday through Friday in January to make sure this process of getting ready for the season would go as well as possible."

King came to DC in April 2010, acquired from the Seattle Sounders in exchange for a 2011 SuperDraft pick. A product of the University of Maryland, it was a return to familiar territory for the New Jersey native.

He went on to make 20 appearances, 16 of those starts, in D.C. United’s 2010 campaign. With camp just more than a week old, King hopes to contribute even more in 2011, leaning on his three previous years of MLS experience.

“Now that I’ve been in the league for a couple of years, I’ve learned from the older guys each year what it takes to get to that next level and what it takes to get your body and mind right,” he said.

One of a few holdovers from last season, the 24-year-old knows that the competition for starting spots is going to be fierce.

“We think from top to bottom we’re a very deep team, a very young team,” King said. “This year, at every position, there’s going to be a lot of battling for a starting role. For me personally, I want to be a starter, I want to be a main contributor, score goals as well as set guys up and do whatever the team needs for me to do to help the team win.”

As DC’s preseason training takes a step up this week in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., King is taking the first step in that battle for minutes. He's excited about the way things are looking in these early days and hopeful that more wins will be on the way this year.

“We’re excited to win games,” King said. “Last year, everyone started to get down. The whole experience as a professional soccer player is better when your team is winning. Everyone’s putting in the work, everyone’s motivated.”