- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bobby Boswell learned the atmosphere of D.C. United practices had changed while he and forward Ben Olsen were away with the U.S. national team at the Copa America in Venezuela earlier this month.

“Teammates told me it wasn’t as noisy [in practice],” Boswell said. “I don’t know if that’s an insult. But I came back running my mouth and joking around.”

The atmosphere at RFK Stadium, where United plays host to FC Dallas tonight will be different for more important reasons, though. In addition to Boswell and Olsen, forward Jaime Moreno will suit up for United after practicing and playing for Bolivia in Copa America since June 13. It will be the first time Moreno, Olsen and Boswell will play together since Moreno’s departure.

Both Olsen and Boswell played in United’s 1-0 loss to Houston on Sunday but admitted feeling jet-lagged after returning from Venezuela at 5 a.m. that same day.

D.C. United coach Tom Soehn played only two full-time starters, including Boswell in United’s 1-0 loss to Harrisburg on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup — a 93-year tournament that features amateur and professional teams. Soehn wanted to give his starters some rest before they resume their MLS schedule.

With Moreno, Olsen and Boswell playing together for the first time this month, United no longer will have to rely on its inexperienced players to fill the spots.

“You could see in the first day of training our soccer IQ went up quite a bit,” Soehn said. “It’s good to have them back.”

Moreno and Olsen are United’s third and fourth leading scorers with four and three goals, respectively. All of Olsen’s goals came against the New York Red Bulls on June 10.

During his stars’ absences, Soehn turned to Guy-Roland Kpene, Rod Dyachenko and Nicholas Addlery up front. After playing just two minutes in two games this season, Dyachenko scored in his first start against the Chicago Fire on June 16. Addlery started against the Colorado Rapids on June 28 and notched a goal and an assist.

Soehn also received increased production from Luciano Emilio, who has emerged as D.C. United’s go-to scorer this season. Emilio currently leads United — which is tied for second in the Eastern Conference with a 7-5-2 record (23 points) — with eight goals.

“Every time we leave, they do well,” Moreno said. “That just shows that these guys are involved in the game. They want to learn. They have the opportunity to show the coaches they can play on this team. But it’ll be up to the coaches whether they keep playing or not.”

There’s a good chance they won’t play as much as when opportunities opened during Copa America, but their performances could earn them more minutes. United midfielder/defender Josh Gros remembers a similar situation his rookie year in 2004.

World Cup qualifiers left a spot vacated by former United midfielder Earnie Stewart, and Bobby Convey’s departure to Reading FC in the English Premier league opened another. That allowed Gros to crack the starting lineup and eventually secure a permanent spot.

“Any chance you get, the guys have to take advantage of it,” Gros said. “When other guys get called in, it’s a big opportunity for them.”

But with both the New England Revolution and D.C. United trailing New York by one point in the Eastern Conference standings, experience will trump player development.

“It’s important for us to keep pressing forward and start building some points,” Olsen said. “This weekend in Dallas will be a great test. It’ll be nice to be home playing in front of the crowd again.”

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