Just back from training camp in Florida, D.C. United mixed with season-ticket holders Saturday at Pinstripes in Georgetown, an upscale bowling and bistro franchise. The club modeled the new uniform design …
… and displayed updated renderings of the proposed stadium at Buzzard Point:
The jerseys are missing a key component: a sponsor’s logo, following Volkswagen’s decision not to renew the contract after a six-year partnership. However, multiple sources told the Insider the club is deep in negotiations with a locally based company and could reach agreement as early as this coming week. The talks involve a three- to five-year pact and do not involve stadium naming rights. If a deal comes to fruition soon, the team would apply the logo ahead of the March 8 season opener against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium and begin selling the new jerseys.
In other business news, as reported here a few days ago, United is close to finalizing a radio package with WJFK 106.7 The Fan, which also carries the Nationals, Wizards and Capitals. Matches would also be heard on Spanish-language WLZL 107.9, which, like WJFK, is part of the CBS Radio family. United has not been on English-language radio since 2009 but has maintained a Spanish presence.
*On the player front, United management is engaged in contract talks with forward Eddie Johnson‘s agent, Richard Motzkin.
“Discussions are on-going, and it’s a process,” United General Manager Dave Kasper said. “Right now, it’s early in the process, but there has been a dialogue between his representative, myself and the league. Getting it done before the season starts would be in the best interests of everyone so we can put it behind us and look forward to the season.”
Johnson is under contract in 2014 but, as part of the agreement that brought him to Washington from Seattle in December, United is prepared to rework his deal and make him a designated player ($375,000+). Under the current pact, Johnson is set to earn about $175,000.
*Midfielder Chris Pontius said he is two weeks behind on his timetable to return from hamstring surgery in November. He left training camp in Florida a week early because of discomfort in the leg. The nerves are inflamed, he said, and he has received injections from the team doctor since returning home.
“Once I get back up to full speed, I think I can be in the thick of things within a few weeks,” he said. “It’s a two-week setback because I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do in Florida and hopefully I can get into it in Charleston and then go from there.”
United will train in the Washington area Monday through Wednesday and then travel to Charleston, S.C., for three matches at the Carolina Challenge Cup, Feb. 22-March 1.
*Spanish defender Cristiano Fernandez underwent surgery Friday to have four screws placed in his broken right hand, Kasper said. Fernandez, slated to start at left back, was injured in his first workout with the club Feb. 7. Fernandez’s brief recovery will coincide with his return to Spain this coming week to acquire his work visa. The club is hopeful he will be available for the Charleston opener next Saturday night against the Houston Dynamo.
United is likely to welcome a few trialists to Charleston — players who might fill out the lower end of the roster.
United has some leftover salary cap space with which to work. “Whether we choose to use that now or in the summer remains to be determined,” Kasper said.
At the moment, of the 29 players in training camp, rookie midfielder Victor Muñoz is the only one without a contract. He seems to have made a good impression and could lock up a permanent spot after the Charleston tournament.
Kasper said United plans to start the season with between 28 and 30 players.
*Johnson, on the importance of preseason for a new-look roster: “The most important thing is to find those partnerships and try to gel as soon as we can. Our window is very small right now.”
United did not score in three matches in Bradenton.
Does he feel pressure to score for a club that posted just 22 goals in 34 league matches last season?
“We’ve got to keep Chris Pontius healthy!” he said within earshot of his new teammate. “Myself, [Fabian] Espindola, Pontius, Conor [Doyle], we are all goal scorers and we get paid the money to score goals. We play that position because we are used to dealing with the pressure. It’s good pressure.”
Although the World Cup is just four months away, Johnson says he is focused on the task at hand because “the World Cup wouldn’t be possible if I wasn’t doing the business here in D.C. My focus is on winning games, scoring goals, being a good teammate, and the rest of the stuff will take care of itself.”
Does Johnson expect a call-up for the U.S. friendly at Ukraine on March 5, a FIFA fixture date?
“I am just focusing on everything in D.C., getting through preseason and looking forward to [United's opener] March 8. I’m pretty sure it’s a very important time of the year for U.S. soccer right now and pretty sure Juergen [Klinsmann] will be calling and checking up on all the players, taking to coaches, keeping an eye and making sure all the players are sharp.”
Johnson is scheduled to attend MLS media and marketing functions Monday and Tuesday in New York.