- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

After seeing his promising career collapse, former youth phenom Santino Quaranta says he made a vow to his 4-year-old daughter that he would play one more game for D.C. United. The Baltimore native, who joined United when he was just 16 in 2001, is getting a second chance with the club after going through what he calls “an amazing turnaround” in his life.

“I owe these fans,” Quaranta said. “I cheated a lot of people. … Playing soccer is the least of my worries. Being a good person comes first, and everything else will fall into place.”

Quaranta trained with United yesterday and will travel with the team to San Antonio today for a three-game exhibition tournament.

The 23-year-old spent nearly six seasons with United before the team traded him to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2006. Last month, the New York Red Bulls waived him after he earned $105,000.

“I deserved to be waived in all honesty,” Quaranta said. “I wasn’t doing anything right professionally. If they picked my option it would have been ridiculous. I didn’t deserve to be making that amount of money.”

Quaranta suffered a serious foot injury with the Red Bulls in October and moved to California to work with a foot doctor and deal with nonsoccer “stuff,” on which he declined to elaborate.

“I was so depressed,” he said. “I couldn’t believe I let this slip away.”

Quaranta was determined to change his life. He lost 18 pounds, gave up alcohol and fast foods and said he’s the fittest he has ever been.

The United coaching staff is impressed.

“I feel he has come along way and is excited to be a pro soccer player for the first time in his life,” United coach Tom Soehn said. “Everybody deserves a second chance.”

When Quaranta joined United at 16 years, four months, he was the youngest player to sign with Major League Soccer. His best year with the club was in 2005 when he earned a call-up to the U.S. national team by coach Bruce Arena.

“Bruce Arena told me, ‘You are going to be in the World Cup,’ but at that point soccer was still secondary,” Quaranta said. “I was just getting by and not doing the extra stuff.”

Quaranta said he has received “guaranteed offers” from other MLS clubs this week but wants to play for United again.

“This is where my heart is,” he said.

If Quaranta does re-sign with United, he would have to make up with local fans whom he taunted while playing for the Galaxy in a game at RFK Stadium.

“I owe them an apology in all honesty,” Quaranta said. “… My state of mind back then showed where I was in my life.”

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