Maryland defender Ethan White leaves school early to sign with D.C. United

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 14, 2010; 10:27 PM

University of Maryland sophomore Ethan White has left school to sign with D.C. United, the first of possibly four Terrapins to forego remaining eligibility in order to play pro soccer.

White, a central defender, would have been a first-round pick in the MLS draft next month. But because the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School graduate rose through D.C.'s youth academy, United held his rights through the league's homegrown initiative, which encourages teams to develop and sign emerging players.

White, who will turn 20 next month, is the fourth area player in 15 months to sign a homegrown contract with United, joining goalkeeper Bill Hamid (Annandale); midfielder Andy Najar, a former Edison student who was the 2010 MLS rookie of the year; and midfielder Conor Shanosky, a Potomac Falls graduate who passed up a scholarship offer from George Mason.

MLS has offered teams incentives to sign prospects: They initially do not count against the salary cap or senior roster and are not available to other clubs in the draft. And with the resurrection of an MLS reserve division in 2011, young players who aren't ready for first-team matches will play in a dozen competitive games.

"I've looked up to D.C. United since I was a little boy, and to finally be able to make that step up to RFK Stadium is crazy," White told United's Web site.

White's roots are with the Potomac Soccer Association, whose alumni also includes Freddy Adu and Oguchi Onyewu. At age 16, White joined United's amateur system. He also played at B-CC before becoming an immediate starter at Maryland, which had one of the country's finest defensive units this fall.

"His mind-set is that he is ready to turn pro," said Terrapins Coach Sasho Cirovski, who has had several players leave early in his 18 seasons. "We have seen tremendous strides over his two years."

With White playing for United's under-18 team and training with the senior squad in the summer, D.C. officials watched his development firsthand. It also monitored his play with Maryland in the ACC, the nation's top conference.

"He's what this academy system is all about, a guy that grows up playing here with our guys," United Coach Ben Olsen said. "We know he still has growing to do."

White, who is 6 feet and 183 pounds, will add depth to a fragile defensive corps. United also plans to acquire a veteran center back this winter.

Besides White, Maryland will also bid farewell to junior goalkeeper Zac MacMath, a first-team all-American who is pursuing a contract in MLS or Europe. MacMath, the starter for the U.S. under-20 national team, is awaiting a contract offer from MLS. He is not affiliated with a youth academy, meaning he would be available to all clubs in the draft.

MacMath left no doubt about his intentions, telling The Post late in the season that only an injury would block his plans to turn pro. Said Cirovski, "I'm ecstatic that I've had him for three years."

Junior midfielder Matt Kassel and junior forward Casey Townsend are also weighing their options. Kassel, the team leader in assists with 11, is from the New York youth system. If the Red Bulls do not offer him a contract and he signs with MLS, he would be available in the draft and likely go in the first round.

Townsend (25 goals in three years) is not affiliated with any MLS clubs and, according to several observers, might benefit from another college season. Cirovski said he expects Kassel and Townsend to make their decisions within a week.

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