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Posted at 04:03 PM ET, 03/16/2011

D.C. United kickoff luncheon

I can start by telling you all about the delicious lunch that was served at Wednesday’s kickoff luncheon at the Washington Marriott, or about the United players all matching in suit-and-ties, or who gave the best speech...but instead I’ll start with the real news.

At the tail end of his address at the D.C. United’s kickoff luncheon, Coach Ben Olsen introduced each team members one by one. The final three names: Andy Najar, Charlie Davies and finally, the new captain of the team, midfielder Dax McCarty. McCarty replaces legend Jaime Moreno as United’s captain.

McCarty escaped before I could talk to him at the luncheon, but he tweeted this response from his Twitter account (@DaxMcCarty10): “Wanted to say I'm very honored and proud to be named captain of @dcunited. Big thank you to everyone for your support. Stoked for Mar. 19th!”

- Obviously much of the talk around the team today was about this season and the immediate future of the team. What are the expectations? From the team promos to some of the talk around the players, it has been made clear that the club’s winning past is in the past. It’s a new identity for Olsen’s first team.

“When you talk about guys like Ben Olsen stepping off the field and really the last player was Jaime [Moreno], kind of that older generation player that was here during the successful part of the club history,” Kasper said. “Those guys have now crossed the line and moved on so it is new in that sense.”

Said Olsen: “I have talked about that. To me this is a new chapter. We need to turn the page and focus on creating our own new history of this club.”

For much more (including stadium news discussion)...

- As expected, rookie goalkeeper Joe Willis officially signed his contract this morning and is on United’s roster for the opener, general manager Dave Kasper confirmed.

- Goalkeeper Bill Hamid, meanwhile, took part in his first full training of the season on Wednesday. It’s been a long wait for the second-year netminder, and as he took the field this morning during a scrimmage, Hamid said the players all reached out to him. “When I went out to the field all the guys came around and were like, ‘Welcome back,’ and that kind of eased my mind,” Hamid said. “I was a little bit nervous. Even though it was only practice six months is a long time, coming off surgery, so when I walked back toward the goal in my head I said a little prayer and went right back to work.”

Hamid said his goal is to show Olsen that he is ready to compete for a starting job right away. “Right now it’s proving to Ben that I need to be in there and I’m sure he’ll be watching me closely to see how I organize and how I’m shot-stopping,” Hamid said. “And hopefully he’ll see that I’m doing what I need to do to get back on the field and he’ll put me back on the field as soon as possible.”

- Though he was announced as part of the team at the luncheon, a deal is not yet finalized for midfielder Brandon Barklage. He’s seen two seasons with United cut short due to ACL injuries, but the team has been happy with his work this preseason and it appears as though it is a salary cap matter. “We’re not going to have a full 30 [on the roster],” Kasper said. “We’ve used more money for spots 29 and 30 to help with our homegrown guys because we’ve got four homegrown guys. We’ve used money [designated] for those two spots to keep these four homegrown guys.”

- Olsen made it clear that while he has an idea in his head of the starting lineup for Saturday, there are still jobs to be won. “It’s going to be a week-to-week process,” Olsen said. “Do I have ideas of who I’m going to start on the weekend? Absolutely. But is there a spot or two I still might be undecided? Yeah. This is a very capable group. We’ve got a lot of guys that can fill in and have filled in an played serious minutes in this league and had serious success over the course of their career. So it’s going to be a headache for me, it’s going to be some sleepless nights trying to figure out the right combinations because everyone wants to play. I believe in competition week-in and week-out, I believe that it will make us successful.”

- There is a standard by which this season can be judged a success, according to Olsen. “Playoffs, absolutely,” he said. “I believe we’ve made enough moves that playoffs are realistic. And we all know what happens from there.”

- The roster for U.S. friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay is expected to be announced later today. Indications are that there will not be any D.C. United players called up. I’ll post the roster once it is released.

- To wrap it up, a snippet of a conversation with United Owner Will Chang about movement on the stadium front. I’ll post the entire conversation later today or early tomorrow.

Are you further along in the process than you were 12 months ago?

“Definitely further along, and we are in discussions. I’m not prepared to really give details, but we are in discussions and I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m going to be able to report something soon.”

Do those conversations involve specific locations?

“We are looking at a few locations. Again I’m not really prepared to identify which locations there are. I think there’s a lot of speculation, but I’ll kind of leave it at that. When we do have something concrete and ready to announce we will certainly announce it, but at this point in time I’m not ready to identify the site...or sites.”

By  |  04:03 PM ET, 03/16/2011

 
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