DC defender White relishing smooth transition into MLS
WASHINGTON — D.C. United defender Ethan White’s smooth transition into MLS should come as no surprise. After all, playing a couple of years at the University of Maryland put him on a path many have taken to professional success.
At this early stage of the season, the 20-year-old central defender has shown the ability to compete at the pro level in seven MLS appearances. His athleticism is often lauded as among the best on his team, and he displayed it in another solid performance during last Sunday’s 3-2 win in Portland.
Being one of a prominent group of Maryland alumni helps drive White, who has represented the US at different youth levels and hopes to emulate fellow Terps who have played for the national team.
“It’s definitely motivation to see all these guys become successful," White said. "Omar [Gonzalez], Clarence Goodson, Robbie Rogers — even though those guys weren’t at Maryland for the full time, [head coach Sasho Cirovski] pushed these guys in the right direction to succeed as a pro.”
When he arrived at Maryland in 2009, White took the spot of Gonzalez, who left to enter the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and is now with the Galaxy. Shortly after, a feature appeared in the campus paper comparing the two as players.
“I always looked up to Omar,” White said. “He played my position, I took his number at Maryland. I’ve always had to live up to the hype of him, try to follow in his footsteps.”
When White signed a professional contract last December, he became DC’s fourth Home Grown player. A member of D.C. United’s U-18 squad while in high school, White stayed local by electing to play at Maryland, and he made the decision to turn pro last winter.
Initially pegged as more of a long-term prospect, his emergence at the back has benefited DC’s defense. Coinciding with his regular insertion into the starting lineup on May 4, a shaky defense has solidified, conceding only four goals in four games — and the team has gone unbeaten in that stretch.
Entering this season, he wasn’t sure how much time he’d get, so he put his head down and started to work from the first day of preseason.
“I was hoping to play this much. It’s always a dream,” he said. “But I never knew. I just came in, tried to work as hard as I could, try to wait for my opportunity.”
However, the biggest challenge lies ahead. With the Portland game in the rearview mirror, White and the rest of the defense now have to cope with the absence of starter Dejan Jakovic to Gold Cup duty when they take on the LA Galaxy on Friday.
The rookie is confident the back line can cope — even if he doesn’t keep hold of his starting spot.
“It’s definitely a blow, but anybody on our team can step in,” White said. “We have great depth, and I don’t even know who’s going to play next to me — or if I’m even going to be playing in the center. We’ll see what happens.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark