United's preseason rolls on to California

Olsen instills tough mentality ahead of Oxnard trip

After wrapping up a two-week in Florida on Sunday, D.C. United players and coaches were back in the Washington area early this week for a brief respite.

But on Wednesday morning the club hits the road once again, flying to California for continued preseason preparations ahead of their March 19 opener against the Columbus Crew.

The team’s home base in California will be Oxnard College, roughly 60 miles up the Pacific Coast from Los Angeles. United will play three friendly matches during their time in California – Feb. 19 against PDL side Ventura County Fusion, Feb. 22 against UC-Santa Barbara and Chivas USA on Feb. 26.

First-year head coach Ben Olsen is working hard to build a team that hopes to make a vast improvement on its last-place 2010 season.

“Benny’s installed this no-nonsense mentality,” Chris Pontius told MLSsoccer.com. “Things are going to get done his way, and if anyone has a problem with that, they’re not going to be around.”

“Everyone’s bought into it, and that’s the main way I’ve seen this team shape up in preseason.”

Unifying and buying into one idea is important for a team that consists of several new faces. Pontius hopes to see the progress continue in California, building on what was started down in Ft. Lauderdale.

“We took a couple steps forward in Florida and now we need to keep improving, keep the fitness going, and we need to make sure we’re not taking any steps back,” Pontius said.

Midfielder Dax McCarty echoed those sentiments, emphasizing the need to improve on a daily basis.

“We have to keep getting better every day,” he said. “It’s a long process, and obviously last year wasn’t good enough for the D.C. United standard for the fans and the organization.”

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The team posted a 3-0 record in Florida friendlies, outscoring their opponents 13-1 in the process. But the opposition has hardly been anything to write home about, consisting of two Under 20 International sides and a college team.

However, players still approach these matches with something to prove, as the competition for starting spots is going to be fierce within this team.

“One thing Benny’s done a great job of preaching so far is that there’s going to be a lot of competition within the team,” McCarty said. “No guy’s spot is guaranteed – if you want to start on this team, you’re going to have to put the work day in and day out.”

Preseason work may only be a shade more than two weeks old, but optimism is already surging through the newly fashioned side.

“I think it’s going to be a fun season and definitely a season where D.C. United won’t be a fun team to play against that’s for sure,” McCarty said.

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at travismclavy@gmail.com and on Twitter: @travismclark.