- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

Santino Quaranta is tired of kicking the tires. He just wants to drive the car.

The midfielder is itching to get back into D.C. United’s starting lineup. The nagging hamstring that kept him out of the club’s first three games has healed. Now the 24-year-old is ready to put his fluorescent green cleats to good use.

“It’s been another good week, and I’m looking forward to this weekend,” Quaranta said of United’s game at Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday. “It’s going to take a game or two to get where I want to be — where your mind is on the same page as your feet. I’m ready physically.”

Getting back in the lineup might be tougher than last season, when the Baltimore native played in 27 games (23 starts) and notched five goals and four assists. United stocked up with talented newcomers this year, and two of them — midfielders Rodney Wallace and Chris Pontius — have claimed starting roles. Pontius played forward in United’s first game but as a midfielder in the past two matches in Quaranta’s old spot on the right flank.

“We have a lot of guys and different options,” Quaranta said. “It’s good and I enjoy it. It’s such a long season and people have ups and downs, so you have to be ready to come in.”

United employs a 3-5-2 formation, using five midfielders in front of three defenders. The strategy doesn’t suit Quaranta’s style of play.

“It doesn’t fit me and Fred a whole bunch,” Quaranta said. “It’s a different role. I don’t know how we’ll play. It’s up to [coach Tom Soehn] to make those decisions. I can play forward. I can play whatever.”

United (1-0-2) will seek its first road win Saturday. The club hasn’t won at Real Salt Lake in three years. That said, all those games were on the artificial turf at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake moved into a soccer-specific venue — Rio Tinto Stadium — in October, and the surface is grass. The change could benefit United.

“Everybody’s very happy about not having to play on that disaster of a stadium they were playing on before,” United defender Ben Olsen said. “It was terrible. Not only was in not great turf, whatever was under it made the ball bounce ridiculously high. It was just a full-blown bloodfest every time — not to mention we didn’t have the best results there.”

Last season, United lost 4-0 there.

“It’s a different stadium and it’s on grass, so it’s a clean slate,” defender Bryan Namoff said. “They have a lot of pace up top with two forwards [Robbie Findley and Yura Movsisyan], so we need to make sure we make the field as small as possible.”

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