D.C. United Adds Defender Vaughn to Begin Playoff Push

Lawson Vaughn, left, has bad been practicing with United for more than a week before the club signed the defender Friday. He has yet to play in 2009.
Lawson Vaughn, left, has bad been practicing with United for more than a week before the club signed the defender Friday. He has yet to play in 2009. (By Victor Decolongon -- Getty Images)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 12, 2009

With three shutouts in the past four regular season matches, D.C. United seems to have found the defensive formula to enhance its MLS playoff push. But because of injuries, the club continues to tinker with back-line personnel ahead of Tuesday's roster deadline.

On Friday, United signed Lawson Vaughn, who started 40 league games for Chivas USA between 2006 and '08 before being waived last month. To create a roster opening, Greg Janicki was placed on the disabled list with what the club said were back spasms.

Janicki did not appear on United's injury list Tuesday -- the first of two league-mandated updates per week. His injury was not mentioned in a briefing with reporters after Friday's training session and he wasn't added to the official list until about an hour after the move was announced on the club's blog.

Unlike other pro sports leagues, MLS has no regulations regarding the accurate or complete filing of injury reports. Vaughn, 25, had been practicing with United for more than a week and the team did not say when Janicki began to have back trouble.

Vaughn will be eligible for selection to the game-day roster Saturday night against the Seattle Sounders at RFK Stadium, but seems more likely to be in uniform Tuesday at Trinidadian club San Juan Jabloteh on Tuesday in the CONCACAF Champions League.

After making 22 starts in 2007, Vaughn appeared in only seven last year because of facial, knee and ankle injuries. Ankle surgery late last season sidelined him for six months and he did not enter any games for Chivas USA this year.

Janicki started five league matches this year (13 overall) but was not in uniform the past five after a poor performance Aug. 18 against Marathon (Honduras) in the Champions League. He is not eligible to be reactivated until the playoffs.

Vaughn provides depth for a defensive corps that will again be without starters Dejan Jakovic and Marc Burch, who recently underwent hernia and ankle surgery, respectively. They will be out for about two weeks.

On Wednesday, Coach Tom Soehn used a makeshift group to shut out the Kansas City Wizards, 1-0. Defensive midfielder Clyde Simms joined the back line during the second half after starting there last weekend at Dallas. Rookie Rodney Wallace, a former defender at the University of Maryland who has played primarily in midfield for United, was inserted at left back in place of Burch while Devon McTavish, a versatile reserve, was in central defense for Jakovic.

No matter who is chosen to start Saturday, they are sure to be tested by a dynamic attack that countered effectively and exhibited superior speed in a 2-1 victory over United 10 days ago in the U.S. Open Cup final. The teams also played to a 3-3 tie in June in Seattle.

"We've gotten two looks at Seattle and we obviously know their offense is pretty impressive," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "They move off the ball real well, they have a lot of talent up there, and we'll try to stop it."

Sounders star midfielder Freddie Ljungberg is not available, however, because of an accumulation of yellow cards.

"He makes stuff happen for them," Soehn said. "They'll definitely be different without him, but they are still a good team and we have to make sure we take care of the other guys."

The incentive is significant. Thanks to a four-game unbeaten streak in league play, United (8-5-12, 36 points) is among four teams that would receive wild-card playoff berths. It has also crept within two points of second-place Chicago (10-6-8, 38) and three of first-place Columbus (10-4-9, 39) in the Eastern Conference, although D.C. has played more games than both of those clubs. The top two finishers in each division receive automatic bids in the postseason.

The Sounders (8-6-10, 34 points) are fourth in the Western Conference but only six points behind front-runner Houston.

"It's an exciting time for us right now," Olsen said. "We are looking forward to the chance to keep building on what we have the last couple weeks. And what a chance against a team that has been very good this year and certainly had our number the last game. It's not something you forget real quick, even though we like to say we do. I think it's fresh in everyone's mind."

United Notes: At halftime, former striker Raúl Diaz Arce will become the fourth player inducted into the club's Hall of Tradition, joining John Harkes, Marco Etcheverry and Jeff Agoos. In a pregame ceremony, Danilo Noel Diron, the team's longtime Spanish radio announcer who passed away last year, will be recognized.

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