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Tuesday training notes

Marcos Sánchez joins DCU; Chris Pontius at full fitness; Hamdi Salihi departs

Having just returned from sunny Florida, the Black-and-Red took to a cold and damp training pitch at RFK to start preparations ahead of Saturday’s opening game against the Houston Dynamo. The players hit the ground running with conditioning exercises, small passing drills and a spirited scrimmage at the end of the session.

NEWEST ADDITION
Mere minutes before United started its first practice back in the nation’s capital, the club officially announced trialist Marcos Sánchez as its latest signing. The midfielder and Panamanian international caught the Black-and-Red technical staff’s eye when he set up the second goal in Panama’s 2-2 draw with Costa Rica in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match. Sánchez joined the team on trial on Feb. 6 and added an assist in the squad’s 2-0 pre-season win over I-95 rival the Philadelphia Union last Saturday. He will be with the Black-and-Red on a one-year loan from Panamanian side Tauro FC.

“[Sánchez] has got a lot of experience, for a young guy, and brings a real technical piece to our group right now,” said Head Coach Ben Olsen. “Technically, he’s very, very sound.”

PONTIUS “90-MINUTES FIT”
After missing out on the second leg of the Eastern Conference finals due to injury and turning down a U.S. National Team camp invite in January, midfielder Chris Pontius is feeling ready to play a complete game this weekend. United longest-tenured player and a 2012 MLS Best XI selection, Pontius is prime for an even bigger year if he can stay healthy.

“Chris took more time than we thought, which is fine,” said Olsen about Pontius’ recovery in the off-season. “But his injury was pretty severe…We took our time with it, and now he’s 100%, he’s 90-minutes fit.”

“I feel up to speed,” said Pontius. “I got close to 90 minutes in the last game and I felt good recovering from it. I think my fitness is where it needs to be.”

SALIHI DEPARTS
D.C. United has reached a settlement with Hamdi Salihi, an Albanian striker and former Designated Player, and he is expected to officially sign elsewhere in the coming days. The deal has been in the works for weeks and has finally come to fruition over the past few days.