- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

D.C. United, coming off a tough home loss and still struggling to find its rhythm nine games into the season, could use a rest right about now. How convenient that the club’s operator owns a 45,000-acre ranch in Colorado.

After a tough training session yesterday at RFK Stadium’s auxiliary field, the players and coaching staff flew off to spend two nights at billionaire Phil Anschutz’s sprawling ranch, about two hours northeast of Denver in Colorado’s high plain country. The team will leave tomorrow for Saturday’s game at San Jose.

The coaching staff certainly made sure the players earned their brief holiday. At yesterday’s practice, coach Peter Nowak put the team through numerous grueling fitness tests. With hardly a soccer ball in sight, it was all about sprints and running.

“There’s a certain camaraderie when you do team fitness. It’s not fun, and we complain,” midfielder Ben Olsen said. “I think it was a little work before you play.”

The break will be a nice reprieve for the players after Saturday’s painful 2-0 loss to FC Dallas at RFK Stadium. Almost a third of the way into the season, Major League Soccer’s defending champions are struggling to string together wins.

“It’s been an emotional year,” said Olsen, who is looking forward to some horseback riding. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs. It will be good to get away and relax with the guys and have a laugh. Then we get back at it on Thursday. We’ve got an important game, and we need a win.”

As soon as the rest is over, United (3-4-2, 11 points) will be preparing for the Earthquakes (3-3-4, 13 points). United has won only one game away from home, a 2-0 decision at lowly Chivas USA in Los Angeles.

The trip to the ranch is becoming an annual rite.

Anschutz, who operates the Chicago Fire, Los Angeles Galaxy, MetroStars and Earthquakes and has invested more than $300 million in MLS, invited the United players to his ranch last May after the club lost 2-1 at Colorado.

At the Eagles Nest Ranch, the United players will be able to participate in golf, horseback riding, skeet shooting, bicycling and fly fishing, or they just can put their tired feet in a cool stream.

“I’ll probably do some golf and fish,” rookie defender Bobby Boswell said. “I don’t know about shooting, but I’ll definitely not be doing any horseback riding.”

Anschutz invites all his sports teams to visit his ranch, including the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.

The United players are unlikely to meet the publicity-shy Anschutz, who last September reportedly was trying to sell the club. In 2003 Anschutz sold the rights to the Colorado Rapids to Stan Kroenke, owner of the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets.

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