- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 20, 2009

With a new contract in hand and three years at D.C. United behind him, Devon McTavish approached the new season with confidence and hope.

After starting 25 games in a turbulent season last year, McTavish expected to get plenty of playing time in 2009. But with a strong rookie class coming in, things haven’t gone the way the 24-year-old West Virginia standout had hoped. McTavish has found himself warming the bench more than he liked - he has played in just five games, with only two starts.

McTavish didn’t dress for a 3-3 tie at Seattle on Wednesday, but with midfielder Fred injured, he could when United visits Colorado on Saturday.

“It’s a little frustrating, but at the same time the guys playing in front of me are doing an excellent job,” said McTavish, a native of Winchester, Va. “I don’t think I’ve done a good enough job of trying to force them out of that spot.”

That could change soon as United’s calendar gets busier. The club returns to action in the U.S. Open Cup on June 30, and the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Champions League starts late next month. Some players likely will be called up for national team duty at next month’s Gold Cup, opening gaps on the roster.

“Devon is a versatile guy,” coach Tom Soehn said. “Even though some guys don’t play early in the year, it doesn’t mean they won’t play later as the games start piling on. Everybody is valuable, and he has to be patient and know that his time will come. When it does, he has to do his job.”

McTavish can play several positions. He has played as a central defender and a flank midfielder, but he prefers the holding midfielder role. He played in just five games in his rookie year of 2006 before his breakout season the next year, when he started 20 games.

“We have a lot of good players this season, and it’s tough to get on the field and stay on the field,” defender Marc Burch said. “People are pushing you every single day, and I think you can lose a little confidence when the coach does different things - playing him, then sitting him. But he just has to do what he can control, and I’m sure he will be back out there.”

It’s a tough starting lineup to crack. The back line is solidified with Burch, Bryan Namoff and Dejan Jakovic, and rookies Rodney Wallace and Chris Pontius have claimed starting roles right out of college.

“If we are winning games and getting results and I’m not playing, then the people on the field are doing something right,” McTavish said.

He started in United’s season opener at Los Angeles as a defender but suffered a nasty head injury in a collision with teammate Greg Janicki and had to leave the game. His only other start came in a 3-3 tie with Toronto FC on May 9 at RFK Stadium.

“I need to get a good game under my belt to get my confidence,” he said.

While he struggles to get back into the starting lineup, McTavish is also battling Crohn’s disease, a digestive ailment that causes terrible stomach pain. His father also was recently diagnosed with the illness and is not responding to medication.

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America is holding a walk Saturday beginning at the Sylvan Theater at 4:30 p.m. McTavish’s mother and his sister Heather are leading a United team at the event. Details can be found at www.tinyurl.com/unitedwalk. For more information, contact Marcy Fritter at [email protected] or 703/865-6130.

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