Thursday, February 21, 2008

Clyde Simms is calling 2008 his “make-or-break” year.

The D.C. United midfielder, who has one year left on his contract, aims to be United’s starting defensive midfielder after Brian Carroll left the club in the expansion draft. Simms shared the defensive midfield duties with Carroll last year but won the role as the season progressed, making 16 starts in 25 games.

“This is an important year for me,” Simms said in a call from Camarillo, Calif., where the team is training.

But the soft-spoken Simms knows the defensive-midfield role isn’t his to lose. Another player at his position is draftee Dan Stratford, an Englishman who attended West Virginia who has looked good in preseason training.

“He is a very smart player and can play this position very well, so I definitely have competition for this spot,” Simms said.

For three seasons Simms has worked alongside playmaker Christian Gomez. But United traded Gomez to the Colorado Rapids and replaced him with former Argentine World Cup star Marcelo Gallardo.

“Marcelo is a great player and makes everyone around him look better when he plays,” Simms said. “He brings a lot to the table. He’s small, but he uses his body well and rarely loses the ball.”

Gallardo is also a different kind of attacking midfielder than Gomez, which means fans could see Simms moving forward more this season.

“Marcelo likes to come back and receive the ball a little deeper, which is good because it allows for variations,” Simms said. “The coach wants me to recognize that and, when he does come back, for me to get forward more so we won’t be holding up the same space.”

Simms has scored only one league goal in his career, but he scored a stunning game-winner against Mexican club Chivas of Guadalajara in the Copa Sudamericana at RFK Stadium in September.

“Clyde had a strong season last year, but that was last year, and he has to establish himself again just like all the other players on this team,” said coach Tom Soehn, who is calling on Simms to be more vocal on the field.

Notes “ Reserve midfielder Jeff Carroll had successful surgery to repair a ruptured plantar plate in his left big toe this week. He is expected to be out for three to six months. …

United will play the expansion San Jose Earthquakes in an exhibition game in San Luis Obispo, Calif., on Sunday.

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