Greetings from central North Carolina, where I’ve stopped for the day/night after spending much of the week with D.C. United in Charleston, S.C. I’m not fond of long drives, but because of college basketball responsibilities in Richmond last weekend and the need for flexibility in getting home for Selection Sunday, I decided to head out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure (though I’m hardly Born to Be Wild). This route should be labeled the Cracker Barrel Expressway because the folksy establishment graces almost every interchange. (Love the Barrel.)
Ahead of next weekend’s season opener at RFK Stadium, my time with the team in South Carolina was productive. I’ll have a feature or two for print editions and the Web site next week. From a drinking standpoint, it was a prosperous week as well: Pacifico at the divey Banana Cabana on Isle of Palms, Palmetto Amber at historic Hyman’s, and Boddingtons at pirate-themed Queen Anne’s Revenge on Daniel Island.
As for DCU, Coach Ben Olsen has been stressing the importance of roster depth, and it appears he is going to have to utilize it early in the season. Besides the goalkeeping issues, which drew Pat Onstad out of retirement, United (and other clubs) are going to lose players to international duty in the first few weeks.
Perry Kitchen, the first-round draft pick who is slated to start in central defense, will go on U.S. under-20 national team duty for the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Guatemala March 28-April 10 and probably miss three MLS matches. The U-20s will open training camp in the Dallas area on March 20, the day after United’s first game vs. Columbus.
USA Coach Thomas Rongen will unveil the preliminary roster late next week. Assuming the Americans qualify, Kitchen would then be a prime candidate for selection to the U-20 World Cup squad in Colombia, July 29-Aug. 20.
United reserves Ethan White and Conor Shanosky also have U-20 ties.
Kitchen’s central partner, Dejan Jakovic, will not join Canada for a March 29 friendly vs. Belarus in Turkey, but seems certain to join Canada for several weeks in June during the Gold Cup.
With Kitchen set to miss time and Jakovic unavailable in June, Uruguayan newcomer Rodrigo Brasesco is the top option to step into the lineup.
Midfielder Branko Boskovic’s duty with Montenegro, the surprise leader of Group G ahead of England in Euro 2012 qualifying, won’t impact United until early June, when his nation hosts Bulgaria -- the day after DCU’s match at Los Angeles. Montenegro is scheduled to play a friendly at Japan on March 25, but given today’s tragic events, it remains unclear whether the game will remain on the schedule. Regardless, Boskovic was not going to attend.
Midfielder Dax McCarty has shown well with the U.S. senior national team and served as captain at January camp. But with the heavyweight friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay this month falling on international fixture dates, MLS getting underway and the U.S. possessing an abundance of central options, American Coach Bob Bradley is primed to select a mostly foreign-based squad.
The U.S. roster is set for release late next week.
Elsewhere on the DCU front.....
*Post fan blogger Jeff Maurer takes a look at the roster as preseason winds down.
*United will wrap up the preseason schedule Saturday at 5 p.m. vs. Toronto FC at the Carolina Challenge Cup on Daniel Island. With a draw or victory, United will claim the tournament title for the second consecutive year. United’s Web site will provide live video.
*The local TV deal with Comcast SportsNet is close to being finalized.
*Jakovic says he is eager to face the United States in Canada’s Gold Cup opener. “I’ve never played against the U.S.,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting. Playing in Detroit, we should have some fans there. My family is thinking of coming” from Ontario.
*Former United (and U.S. World Cup) player Tony Sanneh continues to do good work with his humanitarian efforts. On Saturday, Bradley will speak at Sanneh’s foundation gala in Minnesota.