News and notes from the first formal day of D.C. United training camp …
*Because of wintry conditions, the club trained at an indoor facility in Gambrills, Md., near Annapolis. It will do the same Tuesday before flying to Florida for two weeks of work and three friendlies in Bradenton, Fla.
*Three absences on Day 1: Forward Eddie Johnson and goalkeeper Bill Hamid are on U.S. national team duty for another week and will join the club in Bradenton. Defender Jeff Parke was excused to be with his wife, who gave birth. Parke will report to the team in the next day or two. After the U.S. friendly against South Korea on Saturday in Carson, Calif., United will give Johnson and Hamid time off. They need a break after four straight weeks in U.S. camp, which included travel to and from Brazil. Johnson and Hamid will probably miss the first friendly in Bradenton (Feb. 5 against Toronto) and make their debut three days later against Chicago.
*United remains in the market for additional players.
“We still need a piece or two before we feel comfortable going into the season,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “We’re still ironing them out. We’ve got some good leads and some good options, so I think we’ll get those.”
He declined to go into detail, but did say: “Competition at outside back is something we are looking at. Depth in the midfield is something we are trying to address.”
An international signing, perhaps?
“Potentially, yes. We’ve got some options.”
General Manager Dave Kasper added: “Nothing is imminent.”
United could sign international players into April. The club does have enough salary cap space to add a senior player or two.
A few trialists will join the club in Florida, as well. (Unsigned draft picks are technically trialists too: Victor Munoz, Zach Barnes and Travis Golden.)
*Forward Fabian Espindola, claimed in MLS’s re-entry draft, has signed a one-year contract. United will announce the deal once league paperwork is finalized. Per league policy, terms will not be disclosed. Last year, although his salary was listed at $150,000, he earned three times that amount. (The Red Bulls used allocation funds to soften the cap impact.)
He said he had other options outside of MLS. United officials believe he had an offer in Spain.
Being in Washington, “I’m happy — and cold,” Espindola said with a grin.
Looking ahead to playing with Johnson, he said: “It works great for me. I like to be outside. I think he is more of a box guy, even though he can go outside too. His speed is great. I feel very comfortable. I like the chance of playing with him.”
Olsen, on Espindola: “I’ve always loved watching him. He makes plays. He is the type of player we were missing last year. I think he’s excited to stay here in MLS and get moving with this group.”
*Chris Pontius, entering his club-leading sixth season, says he has made notable progress in the past two weeks in his recovery from hamstring surgery and is aiming to play in the preseason matches.
“I’m getting there,” he said. “I just started doing sprint work. I’m still not full training but hopefully in the next few weeks.”
Pontius had surgery on his other hamstring several years ago and has not experienced any trouble with it since. He expects the same after this procedure.
“It was more of a relief to get it done and know that in the future, hopefully, I won’t have any problems with it.”
*The club is close to introducing a new assistant coach: Enzo Concina, an Italian-Canadian who worked at Napoli and Inter Milan. He will replace Josh Wolff, who moved to the Columbus Crew.
*Olsen, on Christiano Francois, the former University of Maryland attacker whom United claimed in a waiver draft last week: “The term ‘project’ is thrown around with him a lot, but I would say he is an exciting project. We know he’s got some real qualities that translate to our league. Is he a guy that goes to [third-division affiliate] Richmond and puts in a lot of minutes [so] we can evaluate that over the year? Probably. Can he surprise us down in Florida and be someone we can use off the bench as a spark? Maybe that’s the case too. He’s an exciting player who has the technique and speed that can change games. I am looking forward to seeing him” in training camp.
What is Francois’s best position?
“It’s something we need to find out. Where can he fit in? Where can he understand? Can he play underneath? Probably. Can he play on the wing defensively? Will he be able to play in a 4-4-2 or only a 4-3-3 guy? All these questions we’ll find answers to in the near future.”
*Olsen was asked if he sets goals for this year.
“I set goals last year. [laughter] They didn’t work out so well.”