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Simms Has Kept United Together

D.C. United midfielder Clyde Simms has been a durable asset for the club in a season in which nearly all its other starters have missed significant time with injuries.
D.C. United midfielder Clyde Simms has been a durable asset for the club in a season in which nearly all its other starters have missed significant time with injuries. (Toni L. Sandys - TWP)

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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 30, 2008

Midfielder Clyde Simms should be well rested for D.C. United's match against the New York Red Bulls tonight at RFK Stadium. He did, after all, leave the previous game three minutes early.

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"Yeah, it was a nice break," he said, laughing.

For Simms, who had played each minute of all 21 regular season games before departing near the conclusion of United's 3-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids last Saturday, every second of rest is appreciated.

He and forward Luciano Emilio are the only United players to have appeared in every league match and Simms stands alone in starting every game. Factoring in the club's 10 tournament outings, Simms has entered as a substitute just once -- in the U.S. Open Cup opener -- and spent 2,689 of 2,820 minutes, or 95.4 percent of the season, on the field.

In a summer checkered by injuries to United regulars, Simms's endurance has been invaluable. He would've maintained his perfect regular season attendance record last weekend, but with him at risk of surpassing MLS's yellow card limit and missing tonight's game, Coach Tom Soehn removed him.

"I have gotten used to it," Simms said. "The more you play, the more fit you are. There are some games I feel like they get shorter and shorter."

Until this season, Simms, 26, had never started more than 16 times in league play, often splitting the defensive midfield position with veteran Brian Carroll. But last winter, with Carroll coming off a sub-par season, United left him unprotected in the expansion draft. San Jose claimed Carroll and promptly traded him to Columbus.

As a result, Simms received the starting job as well as greater responsibility. United did reinforce the position last month with the acquisition of Joe Vide, who has, at times, started alongside Simms and eased the burden. The minutes, though, have barely decreased.

"There are some days during the week when we have harder practices where I feel it a little bit," Simms said. "I have gotten used to it and, to be honest, don't think about it."

Simms attributes his endurance to plenty of sleep, staying hydrated and good eating habits.

Asked to explain Simms's iron-man efforts, Soehn said: "He keeps himself very fit. He's probably the slowest eater I have ever met. The food is digested before he swallows, which apparently works."

Although Simms's primary responsibilities are defensive, he has become more assertive in the attack. Consecutive long-distance goals against New York and San Jose in June tripled his career total, but more importantly, demonstrated an increasing willingness to shoot.

"Tommy and some guys on the team have kept encouraging me to keep shooting," he said. "When you have players on your team who attract so much attention [particularly forwards Jaime Moreno and Emilio], you will often see them get double-teamed. It usually frees me up and I try to make myself available."

Simms is sixth on the team in overall shots and tied for fourth in shots on goal.

"I always tell Clyde that his first thought should be, 'Can I score a goal or can I make a pass that leads to a goal?' " Soehn said. "When we got Clyde [in 2005], his first thought was always, 'Can we keep the ball?' So we are constantly pushing him to think a little more offensive minded."

United Notes: Midfielder Iván Guerrero will not play for Honduras, after all. With Guerrero unavailable until two days before the first of two upcoming World Cup qualifiers, Honduras changed its mind and told Guerrero he was not needed. As a result, he won't miss the San Jose game next Saturday. . . .

Midfielders Marcelo Gallardo (hernia) and Ben Olsen (ankle) are listed as questionable, but neither seems likely to play tonight. On Gallardo's status, Soehn said: "He's getting closer. We are going to have to evaluate and ease him into things."

Forward Francis Doe (foot) might play, Soehn said, but defender Gonzalo Peralta (hamstring), midfielder Fred (hamstring) and goalkeeper Zach Wells (foot) remain sidelined. Reserve Jeff Carroll broke a bone in his foot and is out indefinitely.


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