D.C. United took to the RFK Stadium field on Friday for its final training session before Saturday’s season opener against the Columbus Crew. The first half of practice was closed to reporters to protect the starting lineup from public consumption, but I have a few thoughts on what I think may happen and why some veterans might be not-too-happy with their role in the opener.
First, though, we’ll start with some reaction to news.
As reported earlier, the driver in Charlie Davies’ accident was sentenced to two years in prison. Davies touched briefly on the news after practice: “I just don’t really want to speak about it,” Davies said. “Tomorrow is my first game in one year, five months so that’s the only thing that I’m focusing on. I don’t want any distractions at this point.”
Davies submitted a statement that was read at the sentencing this morning. Asked what he had hoped to accomplish with the statement, Davies said: “Just putting it behind me, that's case closed for me. Now it’s a new chapter for me. I’ve worked so hard, extremely hard to get to where I am now and I’m finally here and that’s what’s consuming my mind right now. I don’t know what my thoughts will be tomorrow as far as the game, I’m in a weird mood right now because it’s finally here, the day I’ve been waiting for.”
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Was able to catch up some with Dax McCarty after missing him after Wednesday's luncheon. He spoke both on his captaincy and also on not being named to the U.S. roster for friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay later this month. Speaking to McCarty, it is clear why Olsen selected him as captain — he oozes leadership and confidence and is immediately impressive.
“It’s a very big responsibility, it’s one that I’m extremely proud and honored to be able to take over from a club legend like Jaime Moreno,” said McCarty, who added that he’d lean on the team’s veterans for guidance. “It’s certainly not going to be easy, I have a lot to learn, I’m still a relatively young guy. When I talked to Benny he just told me that the whole team is behind me.”
Of being left of U.S. Coach Bob Bradley’s roster: “It’s definitely motivation. For myself, I’m getting to the point in my career where I want to be involved in every national team camp, that's just a personal goal of mine. I know we’re extremely deep in midfield on the U.S. national team, which is a great thing, lots of good players playing in Europe and the MLS so there’s a lot of competition. For me, when the roster comes out and you’re not a part of it, it’s definitely a little bit of a letdown. But at the same time it’s motivation to pick your game up a little bit and make sure that you’re proving yourself day-in and day-out with your club team.”
- D.C. United rookie Perry Kitchen on his selection to the under-20 U.S. World Cup qualifying roster: “It’s always awesome to go represent your country and hopefully we’ll qualify and get to go to the World Cup.”
- D.C. is expecting between 15-17,000 at the opener.
- I would not be surprised to see two veteran midfielders open the season as substitutes, though there has been no clear indication from the team. (Following the closed practice, I asked Olsen if he’d just tell us the starting lineup. After he finished laughing he said, “not a chance, no.” It was awkward.)
From being around the team at training and talking with some around the organization, however, indications are that the combination up top could be Charlie Davies and Joseph Ngwenya and that the midfield will consist of Chris Pontius, Clyde Simms, Dax McCarty and Andy Najar. That means veterans Santino Quaranta,Josh Wolff and Branko Boskovic, the team’s designated player, would be on the bench.
No one was confirming anything, but clearly there will be players on the bench who are accustomed to starting.
“It’s professional soccer,” Olsen said. “This is what professional soccer is. You have guys that are on the bench that can play. Hopefully you don’t have guys on the bench that you don’t want to put in the game. This is a good thing and this is how it works. And guys can get on with it and help this team or we’ll have to make some tougher decisions. But so far it hasn’t been an issue. I’d be the first to be [upset] if I wasn’t in the lineup. And I’d go home and [complain] to my wife. But if that was my role, that’s my role at the end of the day. ... I’d be worried if they weren’t upset about sitting on the bench.”
McCarty also touched on the same issue: “Some guys are going to be [upset] that they’re not starting and that’s a good thing. You want that type of environment. You dont want it to be the wrong kind of [upset] where it causes a problem, but you want it to be the [upset] where they’re not happy they’re on the bench. When you have players like that on the bench it forces guys that are playing to play that much better.”