D.C. United had planned to return to Washington on Friday after spending about 10 days of training camp in south Florida. But thanks to the snowstorm that buried their practice sites in the D.C. area this week, United has had to scramble to extend their warm-weather stay until the middle of next week.

And it comes at a cost -- $15,000-$20,000 to change plane tickets and lengthen hotel reservations.

"It's a heavy expense, but we have to incur it," Coach Ray Hudson said yesterday from the team's hotel in Sunrise, Fla. "If we came home this week, it would be a circus logistically and it would hurt us in the quality of work we want to do."

Once United gets back to Washington, the club is only going to stay for four or five days before returning to Florida as previously scheduled. So why bother to come north at all? "The guys need to see their families," Hudson said, "and I miss Punky [his dog] too much."

The weather had delayed the arrival of several players from joining United in Florida. Midfielders Ben Olsen and Bobby Convey and goalkeeper Nick Rimando were given a few days off in Washington after playing for the U.S. national team last week, but their flights were cancelled because of the snow. Also, newly acquired midfielder Devin Barclay and non-roster invitee John Harkes were having trouble getting to Florida from the D.C. area.

The training time is perhaps most important to Harkes, a former United star and captain who is hoping to make an impression after being let go by Columbus in the offseason.

With Rimando stranded, Hudson had only one goalkeeper for Sunday's exhibition against Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. But then rookie goalie Doug Warren came down with a strained quadriceps, leaving Hudson looking for volunteers. Forward Earnie Stewart gave it a try -- and registered a shutout in the 3-0 victory. His finest moment was stopping a breakaway in the first half.

A Slow Fade

Third-year midfielder Jose Alegria appears to be fading from United's future after missing nearly three weeks of training camp. Alegria, 22, has been unable to get a visa to return to the United States after spending time in his native Peru.

"He's totally off the radar right now," Hudson said. "He hasn't been doing himself any favors. This happens every year with him. He knew the risks. It's really a shame. He needs to get himself here pretty urgently."

Alegria waited 19 months from early 1999 until late 2000 for a work visa. He played in seven games in 2001, then had more visa troubles in Peru before the 2002 training camp. He made 14 appearances last season, starting 11 times. This offseason, he didn't think he would have any problems returning from Peru in time for training camp, but the process has dragged on with no end in sight. . . .

Rookie defender John Swann, from Indiana University, was having a superb training camp when he got injured late last week. Club officials feared a broken leg or ankle, but he was diagnosed with a third degree ankle sprain, which will sideline him for four to six weeks. . . .

United has several guest players in camp, but the one who has most impressed Hudson is Simon Toselli of France. He is battling third-year midfielder Bryan Namoff for a defensive midfield spot. Toselli, however, would be exempt from being counted toward the foreign-player limit for only one season, and Hudson said he's unsure whether it would be worth it. Hudson said he would make decisions about all the foreign invitees this weekend. . . .

Forward Ali Curtis (five goals last year) missed a penalty kick in Sunday's exhibition, but of more concern has been his overall play. "He has not been impressive at all," Hudson said. "It's disappointing." . . .

United defeated Florida International University, 3-0, last night on goals by Mike Petke, Dema Kovalenko and Hristo Stoitchkov. Rimando suffered a mild ankle sprain.