D.C. United may turn to Pat Onstad, 43, in goal

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 8:29 PM

With the MLS season about two weeks away, the youngest coach in league history is prepared to call upon the oldest player in league history to start in goal for D.C. United .

Pat Onstad, 43, retired in December and would have been perfectly content serving in his intended role as the club's goalkeepers coach ahead of the March 19 opener against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium.

But with Steve Cronin sidelined with a broken left wrist and Bill Hamid awaiting medical clearance after recovering from a shoulder injury, Onstad returned to active duty two weeks ago to serve as a player-coach.

Although Hamid might see time during the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, S.C., a preseason tournament that begins this weekend, Onstad is the front-runner to start in the first league game.

"I guess it looks like that," said United Coach Ben Olsen, 33. "We'll have a better idea of it next week."

During Tuesday's practice at the RFK training grounds, Cronin worked on his conditioning while Hamid, 20, joined Onstad and rookie Joe Willis for drills. In a full-field scrimmage, Onstad and Willis manned the nets while Hamid trained on the sideline.

Onstad is regaining his rhythm and, after initially second-guessing the comeback, his enthusiasm as well.

"It's been tough because I didn't know if I wanted to do this all the way up" to the friendly against Chivas USA last Friday in Carson, Calif., he said. "And then that morning, I was really nervous and had butterflies as the game started. I was excited and really enjoyed myself out there.

"That's the first time where I said, 'You know what? If I keep concentrating and moving in the right direction, I can do this again.' It's a huge challenge and certainly something that was not planned."

A long-serving Canadian national team member, Onstad was among MLS's top goalkeepers in his eight seasons with San Jose and Houston. While it's unusual for field players, even the best ones, to remain effective into their mid-30s, the career of a quality goalie often pushes 40.

"Pat looks great," Olsen said. "There was a moment or two in his first couple days where he was a touch rusty, but it has come off really quick. We've almost had to pull him back a little bit because he is working so hard to make up for lost time."

Meantime, Hamid has grown frustrated awaiting clearance.

"I feel 100 percent ready physically and 100 percent ready mentally," he said. "The whole thing boggles my mind at this point. It's really frustrating sitting here telling everybody I am ready and proving it on the field and not getting a chance on the field."

Doctors will evaluate Hamid this week and set a date for his return, Olsen said.

"He's been training almost full out and we just have to be smart and listen to the doctors," Olsen said. "I don't want to do anything to jeopardize his career. I have no doubt he'll come back and it will be hard to keep him off the field."

Davies prepares for move

Forward Charlie Davies returned to France to pack his belongings and will miss both practices in Washington this week. Davies, on loan from French club Sochaux, is scheduled to accompany his new team to Charleston on Thursday. . . .

Defender Devon McTavish is sidelined with a concussion and won't participate in practice "until he clears the first hurdle of having no symptoms," General Manager Dave Kasper said. Reserve midfielder Junior Carreiro (sprained ankle) is out for at least another month. . . .

Defender Chris Korb, a second-round pick from Akron, finalized a contract on Tuesday. Colombian forward Sergio Villarreal, on a tryout the past two weeks, was not offered a contract and returned home.

The club will not make decisions about the remaining players on trial - Willis, rookie forward Blake Brettschneider and midfielder Brandon Barklage - until after the Charleston trip, Kasper said. . . .

Jaime Moreno, MLS's career scoring leader who played his final season with United in 2010, is expected to rejoin the club in a prominent role with the youth academy.

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