Midfielder King reflects on breakout year with United

WASHINGTON – For D.C. United midfielder Stephen King, third time really is the charm.

After excelling at the University of Maryland, King joined joining the Chicago Fire in 2008. The next year, the defensive midfielder made his second stop in MLS when the Seattle Sounders acquired him in the Expansion Draft. In 2010, a trade to D.C. once again sent King on the move.

There would be no further shakeup in 2011, and after getting off to a slow start, King played a big role in the second half of the season to earn himself a new contract in September.

“I was very happy to get that done,” King told MLSsoccer.com of signing a new contract. “I love being a part of this team, I want to be here for awhile, I really love playing in front of the fans we have – great group of fans, they give us so much energy from the crowd and it really does translate onto the field.”

King’s contract has him poised to give him an unprecedented third consecutive season at an MLS club, but at the start of the season his future in D.C. looked far from certain.

The 25-year-old midfielder didn’t make United’s 18-man roster until May 4, and it appeared that his days might be numbered. King used the lack of playing time as motivation, not allowing himself to be discouraged.

“I came in and worked hard every single day,” he said. “In the beginning of the year I wasn’t dressing a lot of the games, it was tough, but at the same time I showed up and tried to work my hardest, work my way into the lineup even when it was an uphill battle.

“It’s tough not to be in the 18 for a game and you feel disconnected at times, but I was happy with the way things went starting in the summer time towards the end of the year – obviously you want to be on the field and also you want to be winning games. It’s tough to finish the way we did at the end of the year.”

By the season’s end, King featured regularly in the starting lineup, making 20 appearances on the year with 11 starts. He even scored in a 4-0 rout of Vancouver on August 13, his first goal in a D.C. uniform.

But he couldn’t help stop D.C.’s end of season skid that saw the team go winless in their last six games to crash out of the playoffs.

“Over the past couple of years there’s been a lot of turnover as far as the personnel,” King said. “I think if we can keep a core group of guys and keep getting better and gelling more and more, on and off the field, I think that’s going to help us.”

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.