By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2011; 1:21 AM
Pat Onstad, who retired to become D.C. United's goalkeeping coach this winter, is returning to active duty and might end up starting for the short-handed MLS club in the season opener next month.
Onstad, 43, is expected to sign a short-term contract and serve as a player-coach, General Manager Dave Kasper said Thursday night.
Steve Cronin broke his left wrist this week and will be placed on injured reserve, leaving him unavailable for the first six regular season matches. Bill Hamid had shoulder surgery last fall and, although he's made considerable improvement, the second-year pro probably won't be cleared to play until the middle of next month.
United's first match is March 19 against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium.
Neither of the other goalies in training camp, Chase Harrison and rookie Joe Willis, is considered a potential starter.
"He's right here on our doorstep and is obviously familiar with our team," Kasper said of Onstad, a former Canadian national team starter who played eight seasons in MLS with the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo. "He's still in great shape, he was one of the best in the league, and we know he can do the job for us."
Onstad, the oldest player in league history, is a two-time MLS goalie of the year and the league's all-time leader in goals against average (1.12). He served on three MLS Cup championship squads.
Last year, Onstad started 23 games for the Dynamo but did not re-sign with the club. He became a free agent and, after not being claimed in the inaugural re-entry drafts, joined United Coach Ben Olsen's staff
"Pat is our best option in goal right now for the situation we're in," Olsen said.
United has room under the salary cap to add Onstad, and because teams do not have to be roster compliant until March 1, no procedural issues apparently stand in the way of a retired player returning to active status.
Onstad will start Saturday's preseason match against the amateur Ventura County Fusion in Oxnard, Calif., Kasper said.
"The biggest transition to wrap my head around right now is that I'm fighting for a job," Onstad said on United's Web site. "For the past two months I have been out of the game."
Looking to the long term, Onstad added: "We don't want to push Bill back too early; he's obviously the goalkeeper of the future at this club."
Meantime, United waived central defender Julius James, who started 16 league matches last season but fell on the depth chart after the club's winter acquisitions of first-round draft choice Perry Kitchen and Uruguay's Rodrigo Brasesco. Acquired from Houston late in the 2009 season, James was fourth on the club in minutes played last year.