United's rookie class gears up ahead of their first professional match
Anyone who remembers last year's opening-night victory over Columbus can testify to the fact that there's just something special about season openers. The optimism of a fresh start combined with a first taste of competitive action usually makes for a memorable evening.
For a pair of United youngsters in particular, Saturday's match will mark an important career milestone. Whether or not rookies Nick DeLeon and Lance Rozeboom make their professional debuts against Sporting Kansas City, the duo are on cloud nine ahead of their first match as pros.
"I've mentally been preparing all week for it," said midfielder Nick DeLeon, United's top draft-choice this offseason. "I'll take it all in during the pre-game. As soon as game time comes, that's when you block it all out. From there it's all business."
If Rozeboom enter's Saturday's game, it will be the culmination of a week full of firsts for the supplemental draft pick out of the University of New Mexico. Signed on Wednesday, 'Boomer' - as his teammates call him - has a very specific plan for his debut.
"I'm going to be watching the guys who are playing my position, how they handle gameday and the pressure of the moment," noted the 22-year-old. "For me, it's about finding that balance between absorbing it all and learning from those guys that will be on the field."
One player Rozeboom will keep a close eye on is holding midfielder Perry Kitchen. The second-year pro shares a position with Rozeboom, and on Friday offered up some advice for D.C.'s rookie class.
"Have fun and enjoy it. It's a big step in their careers," said Kitchen, who made his debut in last year's 3-1 win over the Crew. "You are definitely - I don't want to say nervous - but you have butterflies. With all the fans, you are psyched and pumped and ready to go, it's something they'll always remember."
D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City kick-off at 7:30 on Saturday night at RFK. Buy Tickets.