New coach Tom Soehn led D.C. United through its first day of training in a bitterly cold wind yesterday at RFK Stadium’s auxiliary field, preparing his team for what could be the longest, most intense season in club history.
“For the first day, we just want to get everyone acquainted with one another and get a good run in,” said Soehn, who in the offseason was promoted after three years as an assistant to former coach Peter Nowak.
The training session was missing five key players: Bryan Namoff, Brian Carroll, Bobby Boswell, Josh Gros and Troy Perkins, who are training with the U.S. national team for a game against Mexico next week.
It promises to be a very long season for United, which will try to cap the year by competing in the MLS Cup at RFK Stadium Nov. 18.
Major League Soccer’s regular season doesn’t start until April, but United must prepare for the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals, beginning with a game against Olimpia in Honduras Feb. 21.
Soehn told his players the team potentially will play an extra 23 games this season in addition to its 30 regular-season matches.
“We have got a lot of tournaments, so obviously we have to utilize our roster in important ways to make sure that we keep everybody part of it,” Soehn said. “There is the potential to play quite a few games if we are successful in tournaments, which we plan to be. It’s vital that the young guys step up.”
Along with the Champions Cup and regular season games, United will take part in the U.S. Open Cup and is scheduled for three games in the inaugural SuperLiga event against top Mexican teams this summer. If United wins the Champions Cup, it will qualify to play in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December.
“This going to be a real team year for us where everyone will have to contribute because we have so many games,” veteran midfielder Ben Olsen said.
United’s only big-name addition in the preseason, Brazilian forward Luciano Emilio seemed to have no problem in the chilly wind and cold yesterday.
“Four years ago I was in Germany, so I know what the cold is like,” said Emilio, who like most United players donned a wool hat and gloves.
Soehn was pleased with the Emilio’s first workout.
“He’s already hooking up with Jaime [Moreno] pretty well,” Soehn said.