D.C. United's Louis Crayton Has Taken the Long Way to Washington

"I feel like I have found a home here," said D.C. United's Louis Crayton, who was added to the team last August. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 7, 2009

D.C. United goalkeeper Louis Crayton has been on the move for most of his life, from childhood in a mining town in central Liberia to the nation's war-scarred capital, from a fishing town at the start of his career to six different Swiss villages and cities. He has lived in colorfully named places such as Bong Mines and Zug, played for teams called Grasshoppers and Young Fellows Juventus.

Crayton's latest journey has taken him to Washington, and after all the moves, awkward introductions to new teammates and integration into diverse playing systems, he is hoping his 10th club in 14 years will be his last.

"I definitely want to stay," said Crayton, 31, who was rushed into the lineup last August and is slated to start the March 22 season opener at Los Angeles. "I feel like I have found a home here."

Although his contract is subject to renewal this summer, United seems intent on keeping him.

"We didn't bring him here for a quick fix," General Manager Dave Kasper said. "We brought him for the long term, and I think we are heading in that direction."

In his short time with United, Crayton has made an endearing impression. His experience and leadership have filled a void left by Troy Perkins, an all-star who joined a Norwegian club last winter. Perkins's replacement, Zach Wells, didn't meet expectations, prompting the club to pursue Crayton last summer.

Off the field, his expressive personality, accented by a shaved head and a propensity to break into song at any given moment, has charmed coaches and teammates alike.

"When Louis comes into the locker room, it's hard not to see him and hear him. He's the craziest of the bunch," defender Devon McTavish said. "He makes his presence known, and on the field, that is what you want back there -- a loud, vocal guy."

Crayton's transition was not without problems. Thrust into the lineup upon arriving last August, he needed to bond with a back line that was in constant transition because of sub-par play and injuries, and his haphazard adventures outside the penalty area caused havoc at times. Crayton, who is black, also had a confrontation with a Houston fan who had made a derogatory comment to him outside the locker room.

Reflecting on his rapid incorporation into the team, Crayton said that, although he was comfortable with the situation, he felt responsible for United's failure to qualify for the postseason for the first time in five years. "I was brought here to help the team go to the playoffs and we didn't do it," he said. "This year, I feel the responsibility to perform at a high standard and I accept it."

United Coach Tom Soehn is confident Crayton will build upon last year's rushed introduction.

Joining a team in midseason "always presents different challenges, just from the communication and understanding your defenders," Soehn said. "We weren't his first club, so he adjusted pretty fast. He has always had that [leadership] quality -- some people have it, some people don't. He has the personality that dictates it."

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