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Ex-D.C. player Onalfo named United’s coach

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Curt Onalfo, a former D.C. United player and assistant, was named the club's coach Monday, almost two months after Tom Soehn vacated the post.

Onalfo will be formally introduced at a news conference at RFK Stadium next Tuesday. United announced the hiring in a written statement to reporters.

"This has been a lengthy process, but at the end of it we believe Curt Onalfo will be an outstanding leader for D.C. United," club president Kevin Payne said in the statement. "Our first priority was to find someone who shares the club's long-standing philosophy of attacking soccer - and Curt absolutely does. Having played and coached here, Curt understands the culture of D.C. United."

The 40-year-old Onalfo's only head coaching experience has been with the Kansas City Wizards. He was fired from the position in August after two-and-a-half years with the club. The Wizards reached the playoffs in 2007 and 2008 under Onalfo, advancing to the Eastern Conference final in his first season as coach. He compiled a 27-29-22 record with the club.

Prior to the Wizards, Onalfo served as an assistant on Bruce Arena's coaching staff with the U.S. men's national team for four years, including the qualification and participation in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The Brazil-born Onalfo played defender under Arena at the University of Virginia. After college, he signed with a lower-division French club in 1991. His career was derailed by a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis in 1993. He endured six months of treatment that sent the cancer into remission.

Onalfo eventually returned to the pro ranks and was an MLS original with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1996. He played with the San Jose Clash in 1997 and was reunited with Arena with United in 1998. Onalfo was part of United's 1999 MLS Cup campaign in his final season as a player, then joined Thomas Rongen's coaching staff in 2000. With Rongen, Onalfo helped found United's youth system and served as its first director.

"Having already played and served as an assistant coach for the most successful club in MLS history, I understand the expectations that come along with this position," Onalfo said in the statement. "It takes more to be the head coach of United, and I fully intend to help bring D.C. its fifth MLS Cup."

Onalfo's ties to the club made him an early target after Soehn removed his name from consideration for a new contract in November. But United officials extended their coaching search and appeared to have their sights set on University of Akron coach Caleb Porter, whose emphasis on attacking soccer turned the Zips into a national power. But Porter opted to sign a contract extension to remain at Akron earlier this month.

Onalfo's familiarity with United and MLS ultimately made him the best available candidate to fill the vacancy. His fluency in Spanish also was an attractive trait for the club, which has successfully mined for talent in Central and South America throughout its history and most recently signed Salvadoran international Cristian Castillo on loan from Mexican club Leon FC on Dec. 18.