- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

D.C. United coach Tom Soehn is reluctant to reveal his starting lineup, but it looks like second-year midfielder Devon McTavish will replace defender Facundo Erpen when the team visits the Columbus Crew on Saturday.

After his team conceded six goals in its first two games, Soehn has been tinkering with his defensive lineup in training sessions.

Erpen, who started the first two games of the season, played on the reserve team in a scrimmage yesterday. McTavish played on the left flank with the starters in a three-man back line alongside Bobby Boswell and Bryan Namoff.

“Devon’s got the size, the speed and the smarts,” Soehn said. “I think he just needs the experience and the only way to do that is to get games.”

McTavish made his first start of the year as a midfielder in a 4-2 loss to the Kansas City Wizards at RFK Stadium on April 14, but at halftime replaced Erpen in the right-back role. The athletic but sometimes erratic Erpen started 30 games last year and was listed as earning $105,000, while McTavish, then a rookie, started in three games and earned $11,700 as a developmental player.

“We’ve given [McTavish] a chance in training,” Soehn said. “Whether that translates to the game [on Saturday] or not, we’ll see.”

McTavish, who sometimes played as a defender while at West Virginia, traditionally is a defensive midfielder.

“I spent a lot of time on the back line in college,” McTavish said. “I wouldn’t say it’s my true position but I’m working on it.”

McTavish, 22, is hoping this will be his breakout year.

“Every day you build up confidence when you train with the starting 11, and Tommy has confidence in me, which only boosts my confidence,” McTavish said.

Soehn has been concerned about United keeping its shape, especially when the team goes on the offensive.

“We’ve been attacking with too many guys and we have enough weapons up top,” Soehn said. “We don’t need to attack with five or six guys. In the end, we are getting in each other’s way. If we can keep our shape better and rely on the guys who can finish to finish, we will be fine.”

United (0-2) had a bye last week, and after nearly two weeks of training the team is eager to play again.

Training was so intense yesterday that midfielder Justin Moose got kicked in the nose by Erpen when he tried to head clear a ball. While Moose was taken to hospital with what was thought to be a broken nose, a United official said the injury would not affect his availability for Saturday’s game.

Note — United won’t have to deal with Crew forward Andy Herron on Saturday. Herron was fined $3,000 and suspended four games by Major League Soccer’s disciplinary committee yesterday for violent conduct after throwing an elbow at New England Revolution defender Jay Heaps.

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