Extended break just what DC needed for stretch run
WASHINGTON — In the midst of the busy grind of the season, D.C. United got a chance to do something unusual over the weekend: rest.
With the FIFA fixture date and Labor Day weekend, DC players had four days off and a welcome chance to get their minds off soccer while bracing a final run at the playoffs.
Back at it after the break, coaches and players alike noticed the difference in an energetic training session Tuesday morning.
“You saw in training today, the energy was different today,” head coach Ben Olsen said. “You could tell the guys were excited to play again. During a long season, sometimes you take for granted what we do – especially towards later in the summer it becomes a grind.”
Added midfielder Clyde Simms: “We were walking out and I was telling some of the guys that this is the best I’ve felt in a long time for sure. It was great, just allowing our bodies to heal a bit because it’s been a long season and we’ve been practicing hard. So the break was nothing but good.”
The timing couldn’t have been better as well — with 10 games remaining, a hectic schedule lies ahead, beginning this Saturday with a trip out to Los Angeles to face Chivas USA (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
When that game kicks off, it’ll be nearly three weeks between games played for DC, after the Aug. 27 matchup against Portland was postponed because of Hurricane Irene’s approach to the DC metro region.
Players were quick to downplay any concerns about such a lengthy time off between games.
“This late in the season I don’t think it’s going to be too rusty,” defender Brandon McDonald said. “It’s what we needed – couple of days off to rest [our] legs and come back with a bolt of energy.”
As it stands, despite the upcoming congestion of fixtures – DC will have to cope with two separate stretches of playing three games in eight days – United control their own destiny thanks to holding games in hand. As it stands, they’ve played the fewest games in the league and are just one point outside the final playoff spot.
However, they know that won’t mean much without getting results on the field and plan on taking it one game at a time.
“We can say we have games in the hand until we’re blue in the face but that means nothing unless we’re getting wins,” Simms said. “We’re not worried about the games in hand, we’re just worried about the next game and getting three points.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.