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Conor Doyle embraces competition for playing time

"Obviously there was a bit of a learning curve at first, but I think I’ve settled in nicely."

Conor Doyle

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USA Today Sports Images

Twenty minutes after D.C. United's season-opening loss to Columbus, second-year forward Conor Doyle remained parked in front of his locker, his head firmly placed in his hands. Doyle had entered late in the second half, failing to make the kind of impact he'd have liked to, and it showed.

"I just hate losing." Doyle told MLSsoccer.com after training on Tuesday. "Obviously it was the first game of our season, and we were coming out with a new group - we had a point to prove. Obviously it didn’t happen. Coming out 3-0 in the end was just really tough. To lose the way we did, at home, I guess it just brought out my emotions."

Doyle - acquired permanently from Derby County this off-season after impressing during a loan spell in 2013 - will spend 2014 fighting for playing time behind the more experienced tandem of Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola. Though Doyle may certainly see plenty of minutes and perhaps even a few starts in Champions League and Open Cup action, playing time may prove harder to come by in league play. It's a challenge Doyle seems eager to embrace.

"I think it’s a challenge that I welcome," Doyle said. "I learn from [Johnson and Espindola.] I just want to watch how they play - obviously they’ve been majorly successful in what they’ve done. So for me just take all of that in, it’s pretty special."

Some of his teammates' best practices may have rubbed off already on Doyle, who has looked sharp in recent trainings, earning the praise of his teammates and coaches alike. With so many new faces around him, however, fitting in has been an adjustment.

"They’ve been good," Doyle reflected. "It’s been a lot of kind of getting used to the new players around you and stuff like that. I’ve been sharp - every session has been nice and sharp and good. Games-wise obviously, the first one has come and gone and it was tough."

"Obviously there was a bit of a learning curve at first, but I think I’ve settled in nicely and I’m enjoying it."

United heads north this week to help Toronto FC open BMO Field (Saturday, March 22 - 4:30 p.m. - Watch: dcunited.com/live).