Quaranta's Second Chance

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 29, 2008

The nameplate above Santino Quaranta's locker in the basement of RFK Stadium provides a stark reminder of his status with D.C. United.


For the most part, he is no different than the other nameless candidates competing for a contract and a roster spot, just another hopeful young player trying to make an impression on the coaching staff in the waning days of MLS training camp.

But with Quaranta, there is a history unmatched not only by the other contenders, but also some established players. After never fulfilling the promise he displayed as a 16-year-old rookie midfielder-forward with United seven years ago, after being sidelined by countless injuries, traded twice and waived this winter, the Baltimore native has resurfaced on a trial basis with his original club.

"This is where my heart is," Quaranta, 23, said yesterday. "This is where it has always been. As a professional, I haven't always done it right, but now it's time for me. This is my life, you know?"

United will depart today for San Antonio to complete preseason with three friendlies against MLS teams and make final preparations for the Champions' Cup opener March 12 against Harbour View of Jamaica. In essence, Quaranta has a week to prove that he has changed, both on and off the field.

"He has come a long way and, where he is in this point of his life, I think he is very excited to be a pro soccer player for the first time," United Coach Tom Soehn said. "Everyone deserves a second chance. We're going to give him that opportunity. Whether he takes it or not, we'll still see. He's in a good place and he's hungry."

Quaranta's string of injuries were only part of his problem. He gained a reputation for poor work habits and for wasting his skills. Until 14-year-old Freddy Adu arrived in 2004, Quaranta was the youngest player to appear in an MLS game and the youngest to score. He had five goals as a rookie, but injuries shelved him for much of the following three seasons.

He got back on track in 2005 with five goals and five assists and moved into contention for a berth on the U.S. World Cup squad in Germany the following year, but fitness issues left him out of the national team picture and ailments and discontent prompted United to trade him to Los Angeles in August 2006.

He made a strong impression for the Galaxy, scoring three goals in 12 league games. He also infuriated some United supporters when, in his return to RFK, he exchanged gestures and taunts. "I really owe them an apology," he said yesterday.

His stay in Los Angeles did not last, though, as he fell out of favor and was sent to New York last summer. Four brief appearances were followed by a foot injury. Surgery in October threatened his career and in January he and his $105,000 contract were dumped by the Red Bulls.

"I deserved to be waived," Quaranta said. "I wasn't doing anything right as a professional. If they had picked my option up, it would have been ridiculous. I didn't deserve to make that amount of money."

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