D.C. United opens preseason with plenty of roster vacancies, new faces

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Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com


By AVI CREDITOR

The majority of D.C. United's offseason roster questions have not fully been answered, and as the club's preseason got underway with the first day of training on Wednesday, it is clear that there is plenty to be done before the team takes its final shape. 

Following the offseason purge of veterans such as Santino Quaranta and Clyde Simms and accompanying that with Wednesday's addition of Brazilian forward Maicon Santos, D.C. has just 20 players currently on its senior roster.

Taking into account the fact that Josh Wolff, who is in the final stages of recovering from an end-of-2011 stress fracture in his foot, was absent from training; Bill Hamid is away with the senior national team; Chris Pontius is still recovering from a broken leg; and first-round SuperDraft pick Nick DeLeon was limited for the most part to jogging and stretching while he finishes recovering from an upper leg injury suffered at the combine, there were 16 active, signed players on the field at Long Bridge Park in Arlington, Va., accompanied by 11 trialists and three unsigned Supplemental Draft picks.  

"Don't worry guys, we're going to have a team," United coach Ben Olsen quipped to reporters. "Obviously the trialists we have to take a look at. We'll cut that number down before we go to Florida, so it's important for us to push them and make sure we sort that situation out."

Among the trialists are veteran fullback Jed Zayner, who was with D.C. last season but is out of contract and fighting for a new one; former Chicago Fire goalkeeper and area native Andrew Dykstra; recent Philadelphia Union cuts Levi Houapeu and Ryan Richter; Gambian forward Sainey Touray; and local college products such as Georgetown midfielder Seth C'deBaca, George Washington forward Yoni Berhanu and Maryland forward Matt Oduaran and goalkeeper Will Swaim.

D.C. departs the nation's capital to train in Sarasota, Fla., from Jan. 23-Feb. 2. Olsen said that in addition to whichever trialists make the first cut over the next week, new ones — and perhaps additional player signings — will meet up with the team down south.

"The locker room's a little small right now, and so we have some spaces to fill," said newly acquired right back Robbie Russell. "The coaches are working hard to fill those spaces, which means we have a lot of turnover in terms of people coming in. We already know that a lot of these guys aren't going to be coming to Florida with us, so it's a real testing day for a lot of the new guys that aren't signed yet."

United spent Wednesday's session going through the motions of returning to the training field, doing so amid extremely windy and chilly conditions. 

"These first couple days are to get reacquainted with the ball, really, as many touches as possible for the roster guys," Olsen said.

With Wolff, Pontius and DeLeon on the mend and Hamid with the national team for the next week, it will still be a little while before the club has all of its first-choice options available in camp. 

"As much as I'd like to have everybody right now, it's not a bad time for them to recover. In the next week or two, we'll have a full squad back, and that's about when you want it anyways. These first two weeks are about getting a base core fitness level and touching the ball as much as possible. It's not a sprint this next couple months. It's a long season, and we'll take our time and get everybody ready."

Here are some more notes from the opening of D.C. United's preseason:

SANTOS JOINS FOLD

D.C. took a step toward addressing its forward situation by adding Santos, a player who has been looking for a stable playing situation for the last three years. He has spent each of the last two seasons with multiple teams, splitting 2011 — and scoring eight goals — with Toronto FC and FC Dallas and spending 2010 with Chivas USA and Toronto FC.

Santos divulged that he had options to sign with Sporting Kansas City, the Los Angeles Galaxy and clubs outside of MLS before ultimately landing in D.C.

One of the factors that should speed up his acclimation process is that he played, and had relative success, with Dwayne De Rosario while both were on TFC.

"He knows how to work, he knows how to pass the ball," Santos said. "My time back in Toronto with him was amazing."

Olsen is hoping that not only will that past connection serve a purpose going forward, but that Santos makes a home for himself in D.C. while helping fill the void left behind by departed 11-goal scorer Charlie Davies. 

"I think he's going to be great," Olsen said. "He fits in really nicely the way we want to play. He can hold the ball up and let our other attackers get into the play, and he's familiar with Dwayne as well. He's familiar with the league, which helps with signings. I'm very excited about him coming in. 

"I want him to settle in and stay here for a couple of years and have success. I think he's excited for that opportunity."

KITCHEN NEARING FULL FITNESS

If it were up to Perry Kitchen, he would currently be playing with the U.S. Under-23 national team, trying to fortify his place even more on the Olympic qualifying roster. Instead, he is recovering from a case of turf toe, which prevented him from joining Caleb Porter's ongoing camp.

"It's really tough," Kitchen said. "I want to be there very bad, but at the same time I also want to be healthy. I don't want to jeopardize anything. It is a nagging injury. I don't want to miss the season because I'm trying to get to a camp." 

Kitchen, who is set to inherit the starting defensive midfield role for United after playing as mostly a right back and centerback during his rookie campaign, suffered the injury while training with SC Freiburg following the November U-23 camp in Germany, He said he his about a week away from getting back to 100 percent.

"Just kind of a freak play," Kitchen said. "I went to poke the ball out, and the toe just went straight up. I felt it instantly." 

WILLIS TAKES TEMPORARY REINS AS NO. 1 GOALKEEPER

With Bill Hamid on U.S. international duty and no other veteran in camp, second-year goalkeeper Joe Willis was the highest-ranking shot-stopper amidst a crew of trialists that included Dykstra, Swaim and NAIA All-American Carl Goody.

"You're not a rookie anymore, so you have a little more of a burden on your shoulders," Willis said. 

Willis filled in for Hamid on spot duty during his rookie season, showing well when given the opportunity to start. With Hamid set for plenty of time away from the club assuming the United States qualifies for the Olympics, Willis' role should grow even more.

"We feel like he's a potential big-time goalkeeper," Olsen said of the University of Denver product. "He's got a great demeanor. We like everything about him."

United still needs a third goalkeeper after parting ways with veteran backup Steve Cronin. Whether that comes from this group of trialists — Dykstra has trialed with the team on multiple occasions and has MLS experience — or by bringing in a veteran, it is apparent that Willis is the heir to the throne when Hamid is called in by either Porter or Jurgen Klinsmann.

"At this point we're looking for the best available third goalkeeper," Olsen said. "If somebody comes up that we can't say no to, we always have to look at things, but right now I'm very comfortable going into the season with Bill and Joe."

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17 Responses to D.C. United opens preseason with plenty of roster vacancies, new faces

  1. predicto says:

    Not on topic here, but watching Jonathan Spector at RB against wolves in a FA cup match now.

  2. bryan says:

    i really hope the DC front office announces some signings soon. this is getting ridiculous. i’m intrigued with the santos signing. personally, i always liked the way he played. it’ll be interesting to see how that works out. but DC needs to make some solid, proven signings to get me truly excited.

    who am i kidding though? either way, i’ll be in Lot 8 every home game…

  3. fischy says:

    This should be stating the obvious, but the team has to bring in some additional, proven players. Signing Santos is fine, but the team needs to add at least one more striker and, hopefully, bring in some quality player to start at left back.

    Houapeu could be a nice reserve player, offering the team a late, speedy substitution down the road, but the front office needs to go out and find another striker who is ready to contribute from day one. DeRo and Santos may make a nice combo, and Wolff is savvy veteran who still has some speed, but the team needs another proven scorer.

    At left back, supplemental pick Gonzalez might provide some emergency depth, but the real problem is that Woolard should be a back-up, not an everyday player. Sure, every team is on the look out for a strong left back, but DC’s need is acute.

    If they can fill those spots, this team could surprise. Of course, they’d need to stay relatively healthy, which would be a surprise in itself, but the potential to contend would be there.

  4. mike says:

    What is happening with Boscovic? Is he healthy or still recovering from the torn ACL?

  5. dan says:

    DC was strangely quiet during the off season…. Santos?!?!? really? Is DC in a desperate mode?? (lets sign anyone who MAY be able to help? what’s up with DC management?

    While teams like Seattle, LA, Union, were much more active in making additions during the off season, DC is waiting until the beginning of preseason to make some key signings…. btw…. who gets the blame when DC doesn’t make the playoffs again?

  6. 99 says:

    young coach- still figuring his way around

    administration- still a little clueless

    city- still doesn’t want to give them a home

    they all get the blame.

    (i’m still a fan of olsen though)

  7. elgringorico says:

    Don’t forget the core of this team is still Najar and Pontius. With DeRo, Maicon and Wolff the offense should produce, but who knows what the final roster will be.

  8. Rich in DC says:

    If you ask me, the team has already begun to take shape. DeRo, Santos, Najar, Pontius, and DeLeon is already looking like a potent attack and then throw Kichen in the mix in a holidng role and I see a dominate possession oriented attack…not sure about the defense but the goals will come this season.

  9. fischy says:

    Healthy, for someone who tore his ACL 9 months ago.

  10. bryan says:

    that is true. but i would like to see some serious work on depth and in the back. a few key injuries, and we’re not looking too hot.

  11. fischy says:

    DC is a little desperate, and, apparently, unable to spend money. That said, the front office will have to take the rap, if the team makes it 5 years running outside the playoffs. The utter lack of international recruiting the last 2 years may be down to a lack of funds, but the front office will still get blamed.

  12. Scott A says:

    Maybe they’re hoping to save costs with the move.

  13. PD says:

    “Don’t worry guys, we’re going to have a team,” United coach Ben Olsen quipped to reporters.

    The question over whether or not you have a decent place to play has sadly already been settled though right?

    I do not envy Ben Olsen and I feel for DCU fans.

    What is it with The Revs and DCU that they can’t seem to get the front office love that two legacy clubs of their stature deserve? It’s not just about both of them needing new places to play, but that’s a big part of it.

  14. VADCUfan says:

    Apparently he’s the fittest he has been since he arrived in the states.

  15. VADCUfan says:

    *healthiest

  16. UCanStudyBuzzed says:

    yo Perry, trust me on this one, REST THAT TOE! Literally the exact same thing happened to me in highschool trying to reach for a ball and I got turf toe, but I tried to play through it with tapeing and cortizone shots and it ended up basically ruining my last two years of highschool and club soccer. Took 10 months rest during college to finally completely heal.

    CUIDADO!

  17. 2 Loc says:

    Maicon Santos blows….DC has the cheapest ownership in history