- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2007

D.C. United finally returns to action today when it visits the Columbus Crew after a rare two-week break from games.

Some players viewed last week’s bye as a welcome relief, but while others said it couldn’t have come at a worse time after a shocking 0-2 start to the season.

“There’s not the chance of redemption a week after,” veteran midfielder Ben Olsen said. “You have to sit on two losses for two weeks.”

Because the league now has an odd number of teams after the inclusion of the expansion Toronto FC, all 13 teams will have a bye week.

“These two weeks have allowed us to regroup and refocus,” goalie Troy Perkins said.

But coach Tom Soehn had a different take.

“I had to sit and stew all weekend,” he said. “I wanted to play more than anybody but our guys needed a break.”

But all that matters now is Columbus, a team looking stronger than last season when United dominated with a 5-1 win at RFK Stadium.

The training in the United camp in the last two weeks has been intense in preparation for the road game.

“We are holding each other a little more accountable for what we are doing out there, which is a good sign,” Olsen noted. “We are in a bit of a dire situation here and we need a win.”

Columbus (0-0-3) is coming off a 2-2 tie with the New England Revolution on April 19 and a 1-0 loss in the U.S. Open Cup to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Tuesday at Crew Stadium.

One problem for United will be containing the Crew’s attacking-defender, Frankie Hejduk.

“He can terrorize your flank with his runs and they have some forwards who can hurt you,” Perkins said.

What about Fred? — United’s attempt to assimilate its new Brazilian signing, Fred, is reminiscent of its problems with Freddy Adu. Fred comes to United as a central midfielder but cannot play that role with the club because the position belongs to the league’s MVP, Christian Gomez. Adu faced three frustrating years with the dilemma of not playing his natural position before moving on to Real Salt Lake.

Fred, an attacking playmaker, appeared conspicuously out of the picture while stuck out on the right flank in a scrimmage at practice this week.

“Fred is going to go where he can help this team,” Soehn said. “He brings some qualities that are very beneficial to us. Having said that, you have to be able to adapt when he goes forward and cover him the same as you did with a guy like Freddy Adu.”

Fred was the MVP in the A-League in Australia with Melbourne before joining United.

“Let’s face it, all of his life he has played Christian’s position [playmaker]; now he’s pushed out there, but we have faith in him,” Olsen said.

Honoring the Hokies — United will honor and support the victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech by wearing maroon jerseys adorned with a Virginia Tech emblem today.

Korea bound — English Premier League club Reading FC, which has Americans Marcus Hahnemann and Bobby Convey on its roster, will be playing in this year’s Peace Cup in South Korea, according to the Reading Evening Post. The Royals and their Korean star, Seol Ki-Hyeon, could play Argentine side River Plate, Italian champion Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur in the biennial eight-team event, which has a $2 million prize.

The one that got away — English forward Jamie Cureton, who in June 2004 had a week-long tryout with D.C. United under former coach Ray Hudson, is now the leading goal scorer in the Championship — the league below the EPL — where he has scored 23 goals in 42 games for Colchester United. Cureton turned down United’s offer at the time and headed to Korea.

Not forgotten — Alan Ball, the youngest member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team, died this week at the age of 61 from a heart attack. The former Everton star played in the North American Soccer League as player-coach with the Philadelphia Fury in 1978 and joined the Vancouver Whitecaps in 1979.

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