After a rainy-day training session Monday, D.C. United embraced abundant sunshine, soft coastal breezes and rising temperatures at The Citadel’s football stadium Tuesday.
The highlight was Coach Ben Olsen’s participation in a short-field scrimmage at the end of practice. The surgically repaired ankles held up just fine.
“I’ve got nothin’ left,” he said, huffing and puffing afterward. “I play hard.” (He didn’t discuss the open net he missed.)
The club is preparing for the second match of the Carolina Challenge Cup on Wednesday night against the hometown Battery. Falling 10 days ahead of the MLS season opener, Olsen said he plans to play his regulars most of the game and probably won’t make as many in-game changes as he did Saturday against the Chicago Fire (10).
“We want to narrow it down and push people's minutes,” he said. “Ideally, everyone you think you would factor in the game against Kansas City [on March 10] is 90 minutes’ fit.”
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid and midfielder Perry Kitchen are on U.S. under-23 national team duty in Texas until Thursday and reserve midfielder Kurt Morsink is back in Washington rehabbing a foot injury.
With several new acquisitions, United has made strides to bond off the field as well as on it. The players have taken advantage of their accommodations in the charming city center, strolling the narrow streets in groups to window-shop and dine.
Last year, the team stayed in a commercial stretch in Mount Pleasant, across the Cooper River from the city, and players needed a vehicle for outings.
A few nights ago, all the players ate dinner at Poogan’s Porch near the hotel.
“We got some of the young guys to sing and do some skits,” veteran forward Josh Wolff said. “Being downtown is nice: Good vibe, good people and obviously the food is nice” in one of the culinary capitals of the country. “Some of these rich kids can go shopping and enjoy themselves.”
On a serious note, Wolff said, “This is what this preseason is all about as it winds down: Collectively we are coming together well in these games and, with a good mix of new guys and older guys, we’re getting better.
“That’s something we really lacked last year — being able to manage things on the field in the right way, and hopefully that’s something that has been addressed and we can get going from the start this year.”
On Monday night, Olsen and his father, Dana, dined at Husk, voted the best new restaurant in America last year. It is part of a group of establishments owned by Battery chief executive Tony Bakker.
In planning this year’s trip, Olsen wanted to take advantage of the city.
“I always like to give the guys the freedom to enjoy the city,” said the longtime resident of Washington’s vibrant neighborhoods. “I don’t see why you would come to Charleston and stay outside the city. It’s a great place and the guys are very responsible.”
When they’re out, how do you know they are responsible?
“I’ve got a little feel for these guys. If it was me as a player, I would have never put me in Charleston. I would’ve had me staying at The Citadel,” South Carolina’s military college.
He then jogged back onto the field for a staff game.