Before we get started, a clarification on my column Monday concerning the proposed D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point. In reference to the city financing construction of Nationals Park, I unfairly lumped in team ownership with Major League Baseball. Ted Lerner was not awarded the club until after the contentious stadium debate. Criticism of the owners has subsequently centered on helping to cover subway costs after late-night finishes, rent payments to the city and the suggestion of a publicly financed retractable roof.
Okay, the latest …
*Head coach Ben Olsen called in sick today. (Clearly, it’s the polar vortex he referenced Monday.) Assistant Chad Ashton ran the morning session at Athletic Performance, an indoor facility in Gambrills, Md. Preston Burpo worked with the keepers in camp, Joe Willis and Andrew Dykstra. (Bill Hamid is on U.S. duty.) After lunch, the players worked out at a D.C. gym. The team will fly to Florida on Wednesday to begin a two-week camp at IMG Academy. The first friendly is Feb. 5 against Toronto FC.
*Homegrown forward Michael Seaton, 17, joined the club after a two-week training stint with Inter Milan’s top youth squad.
“The experience was great — it seemed like I was playing with the full professional team. It just shows, no matter how old they are, they all have a professional attitude. It’s like working with men, not young guys.”
He learned a few Italian words and expressions — “simple stuff,” he said. Otherwise, he said he spoke English with Australians. He lived in a dorm near the grounds and participated in two scrimmages. He attended one Inter match: a 1-1 draw with Chievo at San Siro.
What was his biggest takeaway from the training experience?
“Everyone there is hungry and you have to work. Coming home now, I have more confidence. I know I did well, and now I can do things with more confidence.”
After making three league appearances (one start) and spending most of 2013 with third-division Richmond, Seaton will vie for first-team minutes.
“I am working hard for my spot. My mom pushes me more than anyone here. She points out everyone who plays my position and anything they do, I have to do better. At the same time, she said I have to be humble and it will come. I have to be patient.”
Meantime, he is continuing his work with a tutor and is on schedule to earn his high school equivalency this summer. (Seaton dropped out of Central High in Maryland last winter to sign with United.)
“Traveling so much, I can barely get to see the tutor. It’s going to be pretty tough the next few months,” he said. “I know I am not ready to take the GED yet and I’m not going to rush it.”
*Nick DeLeon (early-stages dreadlocks) might end up spending more time in central midfield this season after primarily manning the flanks during his first two years. He and Olsen have not discussed a different role at length, but DeLeon would embrace the change.
“I would like to play in the middle. Even on the outside, I like to float into the middle. I feel like I can create more — more useful, I guess. … We’ll see what he has in store. We’ll probably do more talking down in Bradenton.”
DeLeon believes he is fitter entering preseason than he was last year. When the players went their separate ways in November, Olsen emphasized the importance of them working out on their own over the winter.
“That was definitely a message to us — to come in a little more fit. It can last you throughout the year,” DeLeon said. “I rested until about mid-December and then got after it.”
He is aiming to rebound from a lackluster sophomore season.
“It’s a big year, just because I had an up-and-down year, a lot of injuries. I can’t afford to have another year like that. I just need to be on the field.”
*Midfielder Perry Kitchen, on the start of camp: “The vibe has been pretty good. I like all the new pieces we have. Everyone is excited to turn the page and get this thing going.”