United Goaltender Zach Wells Leaves Team, Considering Retirement From Soccer

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Zach Wells, D.C. United's starting goalkeeper last season before being benched in August, has taken a leave of absence and is contemplating retirement.

"He is at a point in his life where he needed some time to think about what is next -- if he wants to continue," United Coach Tom Soehn said yesterday. "We have an open line and he will keep me informed as to what he wants to do."

Wells, 27, has been slow to recover from offseason foot surgery and unable to fully participate in training camp, which began about two weeks ago at RFK Stadium. He was present Friday but not seen yesterday and will not join the team for the second stage of camp starting today in Bradenton, Fla.

Sources close to the situation said Wells packed his belongings and is driving home to Southern California. Attempts to reach him through the club and his agents were unsuccessful.

Wells entered MLS from UCLA in 2004, and the following year he started 17 games for New York. Despite his making just three league starts in the subsequent two seasons with the Houston Dynamo, United believed he would thrive as a No. 1 goalie. Last winter, after selling previous starter Troy Perkins to Norwegian club Valerenga, United acquired Wells from Houston for defender Bobby Boswell.

However, Wells yielded some soft goals in his 17 league starts, prompting United to acquire Louis Crayton from the Swiss league. His only shutout in league play came in his 16th appearance, and in the final 2 1/2 months of the season, he appeared in international tournament games only.

United exercised the option on Wells's contract in December and expected him to compete for playing time this year. But his roster spot was put in jeopardy last month when United selected Milos Kocic, from Loyola College in Baltimore, in the second round of the MLS draft. Kocic, a native of Serbia, is in contract negotiations with the club.

The other goalie in training camp is James Thorpe, a developmental player who was third on the depth chart last year. . . . Taiwo Atieno, 23, a 6-foot-2 English forward who played for Puerto Rico in the second tier of the U.S. pro system last season, has begun a tryout.

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