DC signing brings positive attitude

WASHINGTON -- Danny Szetela certainly could have hoped for a better outcome in his D.C. United home debut, a 1-1 draw with CD Luis Angel Firpo in CONCACAF Champions League qualifying action at RFK Stadium on Tuesday night. The Black-and-Red labored to break down their Salvadoran opponents and consequently face a much tougher task in next week's second-leg decider in Central America.But while the notion of a daunting trip to little Usulután, El Salvador loomed over Tuesday's aftermath like a dark cloud, United's newest arrival offered up a conspicuously sunny perspective on the situation."In the second half we came out and we played, I thought, a lot better, created chances," said Szetela. "Now going into El Salvador next Tuesday is going to be difficult over there. But as long as we stay positive and play like we played the second half, I think we'll be fine."His new team's precarious international campaign nothwithstanding, Szetela has reason for optimism. After two years spent with top European clubs where playing time, even a place on the substitutes' bench, was a hard-fought commodity and his future was never certain, the New Jersey native has returned home to the United States and found an opportunity to make an immediate, meaningful contribution to a quality side chasing trophies in multiple competitions."He's certainly going to get time," said D.C. veteran Ben Olsen. "He's going to have a great opportunity to come in and impress and put a stamp on this team."On Tuesday Szetela logged a full 90 minutes in multiple midfield roles -- a development head coach Tom Soehn later admitted was not part of his original plan -- despite being short of full fitness, showing promise as he worked to craft chemistry with his new club."It was my first game in a month and a half that I've started, and I played 90 minutes," said the former U.S. youth international. "I was a little bit tired, but I think fitness during training, doing running after training is a lot different than game fitness. So I was getting a little tired at times but I just stuck in there mentally and finished off the game."Though he'll need more time to refine his interplay and understanding with teammates in the days ahead, Szetela's performance against Firpo offered a rare bright spot for Soehn and the rest of the United brain trust."I give him credit for gutting out 90, because that wasn't my intention," said the D.C. boss, who started Szetela at attacking midfielder but soon moved him deeper before switching him out to a right wing role."He stuck with it. There was a lot of space on the flanks to play (against Firpo), and we exposed it as well as we could have. But for his first game I think he learned a little bit about us, understanding how our players play and what's expected of him."The Firpo match might offer Szetela a hint of what's to come. Though he arrived in the nation's capital barely two weeks ago and is yet to move from his hotel into a place of his own, a spate of injuries on the eve of D.C.'s most demanding stretch of the season has pushed him into the reckoning at multiple positions. Soehn seems likely to hand him a range of roles in the United midfield as the club wades through a relentless August schedule."I haven't really played attacking midfield since I don't know how long, you know? It was my first time really playing there," said Szetela on Tuesday. "But it was important just to get on the field, to get minutes and get fit. I felt like I could've done better -- I thought the first half went not as well as the second half for myself. But I just wanted to get minutes and get back to my 100 percent fitness level."