Last weekend D.C. United's Santino Quaranta was in Ohio, helping the U.S. national team clinch a 2006 World Cup berth. Midweek he was in Guatemala for an almost meaningless qualifier. By early Thursday morning he was back in the United States, and yesterday he arrived at the RFK Stadium training grounds for a light team workout before heading to the airport for a flight to Dallas and tonight's MLS match.
"It's a long week," Quaranta said, "but I'm fine. Whatever [United] wants me to do, I'm ready."
With MLS leading scorer Jaime Moreno suspended, United will probably need the 20-year-old Quaranta to start upfront alongside teenager Freddy Adu and reenergize an attack that was shut out at Colorado last weekend.
Despite his busy week of games and travel, Quaranta said he isn't fatigued. He appeared in the final nine minutes of the U.S. team's 2-0 victory over Mexico last Saturday and then started and played 64 uneventful minutes during the scoreless tie with Guatemala.
Although Quaranta is an attack-oriented player for both United and the national team, he does have to make some slight adjustments. For U.S. Coach Bruce Arena, Quaranta plays on the right flank and is encouraged to challenge defenders and create opportunities for the pair of forwards. (In Guatemala, it was fellow MLS players Taylor Twellman and Jeff Cunningham.)
With United, Quaranta usually plays on the front line and, although he has the freedom to improvise, his primary role is to serve as a target for the midfielders' passes.
"I'm just trying to balance two positions," he said. "It's totally different. The right side is fine because I can run at people. And here I love playing forward. It is an adjustment just because sometimes I find myself drifting wide a little bit and not staying up high and trying to score. I've just had to concentrate a little harder. When I don't do it in practice, I hear about it" from the coaches.
Finally healthy after a series of long-term injuries, Quaranta is having his most influential MLS season in several years and, consequently, has dramatically improved his chances of making the 2006 U.S. World Cup squad. In his last game for United before joining the national team for the recent qualifiers, Quaranta scored a superb goal from the top of the penalty area against New England to give his club a short-lived lead.
United officials had considered having Quaranta meet them in Dallas after the U.S. team's charter arrived home on Thursday, but then figured it would be best for him to rejoin the squad as soon as possible after being away for almost two weeks.
"It would have been easy to send him to Dallas, but he needs to be around the team and around the players," Coach Peter Nowak said. "He did a great job to come back here. He doesn't find any excuses. He was tired, but he knew he needed to be back with the team. This is the most important thing."
As for Quaranta's chances of playing 90 minutes tonight, Nowak said: "He looks pretty good to me, so we will see. We have some options, and we'll find a way for Santino to contribute to the team."
United Notes: Besides Moreno, D.C. midfielder Ben Olsen and Dallas midfielder Simo Valakari are also serving one-game suspensions. . . . Two of Quaranta's U.S. teammates, Dallas forward Eddie Johnson and defender Greg Vanney, also played against Guatemala. . . . Dallas is 0-6-3 in its last nine league matches and 0-2-2 at home since its new stadium, Pizza Hut Park in the northern suburb of Frisco, opened a month ago. . . . United has lost three of its last four league games to slip to fourth place in the tightly contested Eastern Conference.