D.C. United’s youthful defenders starting to find their way

United unbeaten in last 5 matches

DC United defender Perry Kitchen, left, heads the ball over Portland Timbers forward Kenny Cooper during the first half of their MLS soccer game at the end of May. Most recently, Kitchen and United tied the first-place L.A. Galaxy 0-0 and Kitchen was integral to the solid defensive showing. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)DC United defender Perry Kitchen, left, heads the ball over Portland Timbers forward Kenny Cooper during the first half of their MLS soccer game at the end of May. Most recently, Kitchen and United tied the first-place L.A. Galaxy 0-0 and Kitchen was integral to the solid defensive showing. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

D.C. United’s young defenders were somewhere between toddlers and teenagers when soccer icon David Beckham was winning Premierships and prestige at the world’s richest club, Manchester United, starting in the mid-to late 1990s.

But last Saturday, they were his equal.

Four out of the five defense-oriented players United started Saturday against the first-place L.A. Galaxy are 23 or younger. Three of them aren’t even old enough yet to legally have a beer in a bar.

Yet second-year player Bill Hamid and rookies Perry Kitchen, Ethan White and Chris Korb were so dominant in United’s 0-0 draw that they hardly looked out of place when dealing with the seasoned Beckham and his notoriously corkscrewing crosses.

After playing at various youth levels with the U.S. national team, they weren’t out of place. In the back of their minds, though, they didn’t forget who they were facing.

“Knowing who he is, you have to be careful,” said White. “Any ball, it can drop anywhere. And he was dropping balls in all day.”

Beckham “had a couple of amazing balls where I was like ‘Wow, how did he see that?’” Kitchen said.

It wasn’t so long ago that the crosses the trio of rookies were seeing weren’t coming from the likes of Beckham but from college players. Kitchen and Korb played together at Akron, the most dynamic team in college soccer and current national champion. White played at perennial powerhouse Maryland - a school coming off a national championship when he came to College Park for his freshman year in 2009.

The caliber of their respective programs combined with their national team experiences helped prepare them for the pros.

“A lot of these guys, particularly Kitchen and Korb, they’ve been playing on some big stages before they got here,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “Akron is a very pro atmosphere, and with Ethan and Kitchen, they’ve been playing on the international stage for a couple years now. … I think the transition is a lot easier if you’ve had that experience.”

The transition hasn’t always been smooth. In mid-April, United were shellacked 4-0 at the hands of the New York Red Bulls - a game Hamid, Kitchen and Korb played in.

“We asked them to look deep in themselves and see if they got what being a professional is about,” Olsen said. “We had quite a few meetings, and we challenged each other and since then it’s been better.”

In the past five matches, United have won two and tied three.

“In the beginning of the season, we thought we were better than we actually were and came out nonchalant,” midfielder Clyde Simms said. “But we’re learning to be more professional and learning to bring it every game, and I think you’ve seen that over these stretch of games.”

Whether the rookie rearguard will continue to be a starter remains to be seen.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • **FILE** In this April 23, 2013 photo, Cuba's former pitcher Conrado Marrero, the world's oldest living former major league baseball player, holds up a baseball with his signature at his home, two days before is 102nd birthday, as he holds an unlit cigar in his mouth in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

    Oldest ex-MLB player dies in Cuba, 2 days shy of 103rd birthday

  • Washington Wizards guard John Wall, left, and Bradley Beal celebrate the Wizards' 101-99 win as Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich walks off the court after missing two free throws during the overtime period of Game 2 in an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, April 22, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

    HARRIS: D.C. not yet spellbound by Wizards, but they’re no illusion

  • Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III watches Baylor and Central Florida play during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

    Robert Griffin III to drive pace car before Richmond NASCAR race

  • Washington Wizards forward Nene, left, guards Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer during the first half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Chicago, Sunday, April 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

    Early returns show projections of physical Wizards-Bulls series were correct

  • Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (10) celebrates after catching a 25 yard touchdown in the first quarter as the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles in Monday Night NFL football at FedExField, Landover, Md., Monday, September 9, 2013. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

    Dan Snyder: DeSean Jackson ‘really a good guy’

  • Celebrities In The News
  • ** FILE ** In this March 19, 2013, file photo, Justin Bieber performs during a concert at Bercy Arena in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

    Justin Bieber apologizes for Japan war shrine trip

  • FILE - This Jan. 8, 2014 file photo shows singer Chris Brown, right, arriving at the District of Columbia Superior Court in Washington. After a brief postponement, singer Chris Brown's trial on an assault charge is scheduled to begin in Washington. Brown's trial had been set for Monday but was delayed while lawyers tried to work out whether his bodyguard will testify. It's unclear whether the trial will start Wednesday, as Brown's lawyers seem to want, or if further legal maneuvering will delay it.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

    Chris Brown assault trial delayed again

  • Justin Bieber seeks delay in Fla. DUI trial