- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

D.C. United midfielder Kasali Yinka Casal already has shown a knack for making plays.

In United’s season-opening loss at the Colorado Rapids, the British-born 19-year-old came off the bench to set up Luciano Emilio’s goal with a fine cross from the left flank. And in United’s last game, a 2-1 home win against Chivas USA on May 6, Casal won a vital penalty kick that Jamie Moreno converted.

“I wanted to come here and establish myself and make myself a better player,” Casal said. “It’s always a good feeling to come on and make a difference.”

On a team that has struggled offensively for the better part of five games, coach Tom Soehn has not been afraid to dig deep into his bench, meaning the speedy Casal is likely to see more action as the season progresses, including when United visits Toronto FC on Saturday.

“Offensively, he’s got a lot of talent,” Soehn said. “The side he still has to adapt to is the defensive side.”

Added midfielder Brian Carroll: “He’s been dangerous at times on the flanks with his speed and his ability to cross the ball. … I think he has surprised defenders with his speed.”

Raised in the Hammersmith area of London, Casal followed his older brothers and ran track when he was younger. At 16, he joined the youth academy at the local English Premier League team, Fulham FC. He played with Fulham’s reserve team for the last two years but was eager for first-team soccer.

With three American players — Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey — playing at Fulham, Casal thought the United States might be a good place to play.

“Fulham has a good reputation of bringing American players over, so we decided to do it the opposite way around,” Casal said. “I’m a young player, and I wasn’t getting any first-team football, so my agent got in touch with D.C. and sent some videos. They liked what they saw and got me over straight away.”

A midfielder who focuses primarily on scoring goals, Casal still is adapting to playing on the flanks for D.C. United.

“The more work I do defensively, the more minutes I will get,” Casal said.

He also knows he has to get used to the summer heat in the District.

“I’m worried because they keep telling me that this [weather] is nothing and it will get much worse,” he said.

A dual citizen of England and Nigeria, Casal also is a member of the Nigerian under-20 team that will play in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada in July. For now though, Casal hopes he can continue having a positive impact for United.

“Right now I’m supposed to be in Nigeria training, but because I’ve been doing so well here I want to cement my first-team spot,” Casal said. “So I don’t want to really leave at the moment.”

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