- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

D.C. United coach Ray Hudson conducted his first training session with the club yesterday on the snow-covered turf at RFK Stadium's auxiliary field.

The former Miami Fusion coach was impressed after watching players scrimmage for an hour, even though the weather took a little getting used to.

"This is the first time I've played in snow since I was a player in England," said Hudson, who has lived the past 24 years in South Florida. "I was hugely impressed. This was a 10 out of 10. The conditions were alien to some of the lads but the zip, touch and passing was faultless. They should play in Iceland if this is the way they play. I'm just so elated."

While Hudson's appraisal was positive, injuries cast a cloud over the immediate future of the team.

Goalie Mike Ammann possibly faces more surgery on both his elbows. Speedy midfielder and national team player Ben Olsen is still hobbling around with an ankle injury that has kept him out of action for nearly a year. And key United stars Jaime Moreno and Marco Etcheverry are nursing knee and ankle ailments, respectively. Both players managed some light running yesterday.

The biggest concern at the moment is the future of Ammann, 32, who had surgery to correct nerve irritation in both elbows in August but is now suffering numbness in the pinkies of both hands.

"I can drive a car, but I had difficulty grabbing some plates this morning," Ammann said.

Making their first appearance with United yesterday were goalie Nick Rimando, midfielder Lazo Alavanja and defender Brandon Prideaux. All three players came to the team from the dispersal draft following the elimination of the Miami and Tampa Bay clubs.

Former Miami players Rimando and Alavanja arrived in Washington at 5 a.m. yesterday after a 15-hour drive from Florida. After a short rest, both players were on the training field at 10:30 a.m., and looked very sharp playing with their new teammates.

"It was 90 degrees when we left yesterday," Rimando said. "I suppose I have to get used to a lot of changes now."

Rimando, 22, was considered one of the top goalies in the league playing under Hudson last season, defying the critics who said he was too short to play the position. He has been listed at 5-feet, 11 in media guides but looks more like 5-9. Still, Rimando pulled off numerous acrobatic saves yesterday and is certain to start the season with Ammann still injured.

Mike McGinty of the A-League's Richmond Kickers trained with United yesterday and will likely be the backup keeper until Ammann returns.

In his first talk with his players in the locker room, Hudson tried to instill confidence in the former three-time champions, who failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons.

"Ray told us that we have to get back up to the top by climbing the ladder one day at a time," midfielder Mark Lisi said. "The thing that Ray brings us is enthusiasm."

Said Hudson: "This team when it was at the top had a swagger and confidence. But we lost that shine. My challenge is to get us back to the top."

United will leave for a week of training at Fort Lauderdale Monday. The club's first serious game is March 6 when it travels to Guatemala to face CSD Comunicaciones in the CONCACAF Champion's Cup. United will kick off the Major League Soccer season at the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 23.

MLS is expected to release its 2002 schedule today.

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