D.C. United news & notes

D.C. United at The Citadel (By Steven Goff -- The Washington Post)
D.C. United at The Citadel (By Steven Goff — The Washington Post)

Greetings from the Low Country and the lovely town of Charleston, S.C. While Washington absorbs another round of snow, Chucktown is enjoying a 70-degree day with abundant sunshine.

D.C. United is five days into the final stage of training camp and 11 days from the MLS opener against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium. After a 2-0 victory over Houston in the Carolina Challenge Cup opener Saturday, United is prepping for Wednesday night’s match at Blackbaud Stadium against the host side, the third-division Charleston Battery.

I will have a closer look at United’s preseason evolution in Wednesday’s print editions (available online tonight). But first, news, notes and observations from this morning’s workout at Johnson Hagood Stadium, home to The Citadel’s gridiron football.

We’ll start on the light side:

As training wound down, Coach Ben Olsen tried his luck booting soccer balls through the football uprights.

“I have dreams. I wake up in the middle of the night where I get that ball as a kicker in the NFL [on a botched snap]. I don’t dream about soccer. I haven’t dreamed about soccer since I retired. You would think I would have a dream about playing soccer. It’s a bad snap and they are just coming at me. I’m doing my thing — spin moves. I’m on the ground … in the end zone.”

*Midfielder Chris Pontius, who recently suffered a minor setback in his return from hamstring surgery, mostly worked on the side Tuesday before engaging in ball work. He will not play in the last two matches in Charleston and probably won’t make the game-day roster until the second regular season match, March 22 at Toronto FC.

For the most part, though, United is healthy. Defenders Chris Korb and Nana Attakora, sidelined for weeks with bone bruises, are training again and midfielder Lewis Neal, bothered by a leg ailment, is back to work.

*Three players without contracts remain in camp: midfielder Victor Munoz, a second-round draft pick from UCLA; midfielder Reuben Ayarna, a former Boston College star who featured in Sweden for several years; and midfielder Abel “Shadow” Sebele, a native of Zimbabwe who played at Episcopal High in Alexandria, West Virginia University and the fourth-tier Des Moines Menace. There are no immediate plans to invite additional trialists. United is compliant with the salary cap and does not have to make roster cuts; the question is whether they sign any of the three prospects.

*As the middle game in a three-match, eight-day tournament, Olsen will rest most of his regulars and start secondary players against the Battery. Some first-teamers will appear. The game will kick off around 7:30 p.m., following the Seattle-Houston match at 5. D.C. United’s website will provide a live stream.

*United officials are awaiting word from the USSF about Eddie Johnson‘s status for next Wednesday’s friendly against Ukraine. (The match will reportedly be played in Cyprus.) He was named to a preliminary roster, but United — as well as other MLS club employed affected players — are eager to learn whether Juregen Klinsmann will summon domestic players or rely solely on his European-based group.

*General Manager Dave Kasper said he remains in talks with Johnson’s agent, Richard Motzkin, about a new contract. “We’ve had a very good dialogue for a couple of weeks and discussions continue.” United has submitted an offer that would make Johnson a designated player ($387,000+). The sides have declined to share the exact figure. Johnson is under contract in 2014 to earn about $175,000.

*United will probably assign players to third-division Richmond after the MLS opener. Christiano Francois, Jalen Robinson and Collin Martin are prime candidates. Michael Seaton and the trialists (if they sign) may also land with the Kickers. Goalkeepers Joe Willis and Andrew Dykstra will likely shuttle back and forth in order to gain competitive playing time. Last year Dykstra spent most of the season in Richmond while Willis backed up Bill Hamid.

In a full-field workout today, the lineups were:

Sean Franklin (right back), Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Cristian Fernandez (left back); Davy Arnaud (right wing), Perry Kitchen, Luis Silva, Nick DeLeon (left wing); Fabian Espindola, Johnson.

vs.

Robinson, Steve Birnbaum, Conor Shanosky, Taylor Kemp; Munoz, Ayarna, Jared Jeffrey, Kyle Porter; Conor Doyle, Seaton.

Later, in a small-field setting, Korb (left) and Attakora (right) joined Parke and Boswell.

*The officiating crew for the opener is set: Drew Fischer (referee), Adam Wienckowski and Gregory Barkey (assistants), Robert Sibiga (fourth).

*What is D.C. mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser‘s take on the Buzzard Point stadium proposal? Read her Q&A with Post colleague Jonathan O’Connell.

*Still no word on TV or radio for United’s opener. Comcast SportsNet is unlikely to carry the match on any platform because the Capitals and Wizards play the same night. WJFK 106.7 The Fan is in talks with the club, but neither side has announced a deal. The announcers also remain a mystery. Longtime play-by-play man Dave Johnson will return to CSN, but it’s unclear whether John Harkes or Santino Quaranta will join him in the booth.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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