D.C. United’s schedule isopen this weekend, and the resulting two-week break from league play isprobably the best thing that’s happened to the struggling squad thusfar this season.
Owners of the worst record (0-4), lowest point total(0) and worst goal differential (-9) in MLS, United have no shortage ofissues to address and wounds to heal, both physical and psychological.The club’s substantial injury list grew even longer with Monday’s newsthat attacker Chris Pontius will miss about a month of action due to atorn hamstring.
One notable absentee is hauling himself back tofitness, however. Few players have been missed more—in terms ofperformance as well as leadership—than Clyde Simms, the steadycentral midfielder who’s been an ever-present force in the D.C. lineupfor years, only to be bitten badly by the injury bug in this campaign.Simms sustained a knee meniscus injury during preseason, then rushedback from surgery just in time to strain his hamstring in the seasonopener in Kansas City.
Known as the team’s "iron man" since hisclub-record-setting 3,849 minutes of play in 2008, Simms is renownedfor taking good care of his body but is surprisingly philosophicalabout his recent string of setbacks.
“I feel I’ve been fortunate my whole career, really.Maybe it’s catching up to me a little bit,” he said in the wake ofUnited’s loss to Chicago on Saturday night. “I try to stay on top of myregimen in training and do the little extra work outside of training tostay healthy.”
The 27-year-old began hard running last week andplans to test his legs with sprint work in the days ahead, with an eyetoward being in uniform for United’s next match, a U.S. Open Cupplay-in against FC Dallas next Wednesday. He’s done his best to stayinvolved with the squad during his recovery, and has occasionally evendone his stationary bike workouts behind the north goal at the RFKStadium auxiliary fields so he can watch his teammates train.
“I try to make it out to training even though I haveto do my rehab," he explained. "I try to get in here a little early so I can go out andwatch training and just be with the team, walk to the field with theguys and back. I try to stay in as much as possible.And I think it’s good to actually be out there during training becausewhen you’re in the locker room all the time, you kind of lose thatspeed of play, but you can still keep up with it a little bit just bywatching.”
Discussing his side’s abject start to the season,Simms lamented the vacuum left by the retirement of charismaticmidfielder Ben Olsen, who brought personality and intensity to the D.C.locker room for more than a decade. Long-term injuries have preventedveterans like Bryan Namoff, Marc Burch and Simms himself fromaddressing that gap, just one of several areas in which head coach CurtOnalfo’s options have been limited by circumstance.
“Curt’s been doing a goodjob of keeping the guys positive. Really that’s the only thing we cando right now. We’ve had some injuries, we have a lot of new faces onthe field and in the locker room and it’s tough, especially in thebeginning of the season,” said Simms, who nonetheless offered anoptimistic take on United’s future.
“It’s a long season. I remember in ‘07 we started off0-3 and we won the Supporters’ Shield. So it’s definitely possible toturn things around in a big way and I think we can do it, get guys backand get some more competition in the team.”