Frustration Spills Over for Emilio

"I am under pressure because everybody is waiting for me . . . because of the Golden Boot [and] MVP," said United's Luciano Emilio.
"I am under pressure because everybody is waiting for me . . . because of the Golden Boot [and] MVP," said United's Luciano Emilio. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Luciano Emilio's best strike against the New York Red Bulls last Thursday at RFK Stadium might have come in the 63rd minute. The object, though, was not the ball but plastic water bottles, and the result was not a goal but a red card.

Frustrated by D.C. United Coach Tom Soehn's decision to remove him early from the 2-0 victory, Emilio booted the bottles onto the field. Because he had already left the match, United did not have to play short-handed. The card did, however, result in a one-game suspension that must be served Saturday when D.C. (4-2-7, 19 points) hosts the Chicago Fire (5-2-6, 21) in a showdown between the top teams in MLS's Eastern Conference.

Soehn and Emilio said yesterday that they have settled the matter.

"In the heat of the moment, obviously things transpired that were unacceptable," Soehn said. "He understands it and we move on. . . . In general, forwards go through stretches where there is pressure on them, and when they are not scoring, they get frustrated. People handle it in different ways. Unfortunately, he handled it in the wrong way."

Said Emilio: "The coach thought it [was] better to pull me out of the game. That brought on a little frustration on my part. . . . We talked about this situation, and I think now everything is okay."

Despite starting five consecutive MLS matches, Emilio has been removed early in three straight. He has contributed assists in each of the past two games but has scored just once in seven appearances. His five goals lead the team and are tied for eighth in MLS.

On Thursday, three minutes after Emilio received a yellow card for a two-footed challenge on New York's Kevin Goldthwaite near midfield, Soehn decided to alter the attack and replace Emilio with Jaime Moreno. Upon his arrival at the bench, he kicked away and was further disciplined by referee Terry Vaughn. It was Emilio's first red card in 71 league appearances, including the playoffs.

With a deep roster and Soehn making a concerted effort to avoid late-season burnout, players have had to adjust to unpredictable playing time. United has yet to reach the midway point of the 30-game season, and already 21 players have started league matches. Despite the lineup rotation, Emilio is fifth on the club in minutes played.

His frustration, he said, has stemmed in part from expectations.

"Sometimes I am under pressure because everybody is waiting for me, waiting because of the Golden Boot, MVP, everything I have to do," he said of his 2007 scoring title and league honor. "If I have more time to score goals and play good, it's important for the team and important for me."

United Notes: Midfielder Ben Olsen, sidelined since mid-May with a hamstring injury, is getting closer to returning to the game-day roster. United officials upgraded him to questionable for Saturday's match against Chicago, though next week's trip to Seattle and Colorado seems more realistic.

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