Bobby Boswell’s D.C. United homecoming hasn’t been as straightforward as one might assume.
Yes, the team name and uniforms are the same. Creaky RFK Stadium endures as well. But considering no teammates remain from Boswell’s first stint with United — three seasons that ended with a 2007 trade to the Houston Dynamo — regaining that comfort level has naturally taken some time.
Boswell has changed too. After getting to know the District as an early-20s bachelor living off Eighth Street, the defender has returned as a 31-year-old father of two opting for the more affable surroundings of Falls Church.
Living in D.C. proper, “People stayed out of your business. No one had any idea I played soccer, no one had any idea I did anything. They just didn’t bother.”
But in the suburbs? “Now people are like, ‘Hey, we saw the game!’ I haven’t even had a conversation with you yet. I don’t even know you.”
As Boswell sees a different side of the nation’s capital, United is seeing a different side of Boswell. The fan-friendly prospect who won MLS Defender of the Year at age 23 is now a veteran with 260 league games under his belt.
“He’s just grown up in every aspect of his life,” said coach Ben Olsen, who played with Boswell for United and the U.S. national team. “He’s got two kids, which always smacks you in the face and makes you grow up. He’s just older, he’s been around the block and he knows what it takes to win in this league. But he still has a real charm about him that’s contagious around the locker room.”
With those qualities, Boswell became a natural choice as the club’s new captain after Houston declined his contract option and United plucked him in December’s re-entry draft.
While the since-departed Dwayne De Rosario was a dominating personality in United’s locker room, Boswell doesn’t approach the captaincy that way. Instead, he sees himself as just one of several decorated veterans brought in to stabilize the leadership structure for a club that went 3-24-7 in 2013.
“People kind of get confused with the captain’s armband … it’s a leadership group by committee,” Boswell said. “My role has always been kind of a vocal guy — from Year 1, I was louder than everyone it seemed like. When I yell, people seem to hear it. Hopefully my information is good.”
Although United (0-2-1) showed attacking promise in a 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire this past weekend, the back line faltered as D.C. surrendered a late lead.
With fellow offseason additions Jeff Parke, Sean Franklin and Cristian Fernandez joining Boswell in that unit, the chemistry isn’t expected to come overnight. Yet the breakdowns remain concerning.
“We’re learning on the fly sometimes,” Boswell said. “I think the biggest thing is when you play with a group of guys for a while, you learn what tendencies the guys next to you have. We don’t have that luxury, so we have to talk a lot more during the game and after the game, watch video a lot more.”
Heading into United’s match Saturday against the New England Revolution (1-2-1) at RFK Stadium, Boswell is working to further steer that defense in the right direction.
Even though he downplayed his role as captain, the respect he has within United’s locker room is clear. When Boswell speaks, people listen — and not, as he implies, just because of the volume of his voice.