United Notebook

Boswell Named Top MLS Defender

Bobby Boswell was undrafted and signed with United as a free agent.
Bobby Boswell was undrafted and signed with United as a free agent. (2005 Photo By Lawrence Jackson -- Associated Press)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

For the second time in six days, a D.C. United player who was ignored at the MLS draft and earns considerably less money than the average player was honored by the league for individual excellence.

Last week it was Troy Perkins, who was named goalkeeper of the year. Yesterday it was Bobby Boswell, who beat out two Kansas City players for the top defender award.

Boswell, 23, is the second-youngest player to receive the honor and, combined with Perkins's trophy, made United the first team in six years to have both the best goalie and defender in the same season.

Boswell finished ahead of the Wizards' Jose Burciaga Jr. and Jimmy Conrad, the 2005 winner, in voting by players, coaches, general managers and media. He deflected credit to his United teammates.

"It's the whole team," he said. "Troy will be the first one to tell you that, I'll be the second one to say it."

Both were signed as free agents a few weeks before the start of the season, Perkins in 2004 and Boswell a year later. Both have base salaries of $29,400 -- which is about one-third of the league average.

Following an inconsistent rookie year, Boswell anchored the middle of United's three-man back line and helped the club to the third-lowest goals against average (1.19) in the 12-team league.

He played every minute of 30 regular games (he missed two matches) and had a goal and an assist. On Saturday he helped secure United's 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls in the opener of their two-game, first-round playoff series.

"Everybody here from the start knew he was going to be a great defender," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "Did we think he was going to progress this fast? Probably not. Hopefully, he takes this award in the right way, which is to enjoy it, forget about it and keep working to get better."

The other award winner yesterday was FC Dallas midfielder Richard Mulrooney, who was named comeback player of the year. He returned from a serious knee injury to contribute nine assists for the first-place finisher in the Western Conference.

United's Alecko Eskandarian and Chicago's Chris Armas were the other finalists.

Donnet Bypassed

After starting the final seven games of the regular season, Argentine midfielder Matias Donnet was conspicuously absent from the playoff opener.

With United at full strength, Coach Peter Nowak decided to use Freddy Adu and Josh Gros on the flanks and leave Donnet as a second-half option. After United took the lead in the 77th minute, however, Nowak inserted three defensive players.

"I'm sure during the playoffs we will have a time when his approach will be very crucial to this team," Nowak said of Donnet, who has one goal since being acquired in late August.

"In New York, we wanted to make sure the group [understood] each other and still Matias is in the process of acclimating to our team and sometimes the communication is not there. We chose the safe road." . . .

United's problems with suspensions have subsided, but both Christian Gomez and defender Bryan Namoff are in danger of missing the Eastern Conference final, if the club eliminates the Red Bulls.

Gomez and Namoff received yellow cards in Game 1 and a second yellow in the series would result in a one-game suspension. . . .

Asked whether last year's 4-0 playoff loss to Chicago is serving as extra motivation for his players, Nowak said: "We all know what happened. I don't think if you are married and you got divorced you are going to bring the divorce all the way back.

"You cannot live with the bad memories. We have to look forward and not look over our shoulders and see only the bad things that happened."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company