DC players back on the field after three-day break
WASHINGTON - D.C. United returned to training Wednesday morning following three days off (two scheduled and one because of Hurricane Sandy) in preparation for their two-leg playoff series against the New York Red Bulls.
After rain and heavy winds soaked the region, United now are preparing in earnest for their first appearance in the MLS playoffs since 2007. D.C. are unbeaten in seven matches (5-0-2) since captain Dwayne De Rosario went down with an MCL strain.
"As a team, it's amazing to be late on in the season continue getting result after result," said goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who made eight spectacular saves in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Chicago. "We're very happy right now."
United will begin its playoff series against New York on Saturday at Red Bull Stadium before returning to RFK Stadium, where D.C. haven't lost since March 10.
The second seed
With their hard-fought result in Chicago, United secured the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, which was something the players were dead-set on accomplishing once they clinched a berth. United coach Ben Olsen made it clear last week that he wanted to avoid the Knockout Round, which features Chicago and Houston tonight.
"We're now down to eight teams. We're one of eight teams in the playoffs and the other four have to play off and that's a big deal," Olsen said. "[Playing] back to back will start to take its toll. It's certainly doable, but we wanted to avoid it."
United also are 2-0-2 over their last four road matches, a dramatic turnaround from the club's early season struggles which could play a factor when D.C. visits New York this weekend.
"It's a rivalry," Hamid said. "Their fans are passionate about it, our fans are passionate about it and it should be a great series."
United handed out their team awards on Monday, and Chris Pontius cleaned up.
A likely MLS Comeback Player of the Year candidate, Pontius won team awards for Most Valuable Player, the Fan's Choice Award, the Golden Boot and Goal of the Year.
Pontius finished the regular season with 12 goals in 31 matches (26 starts) and took 71 shots.
Center back Brandon McDonald, who set a club record for minutes played with 2,963, was named the team's Defender of the Year while midfielder Marcelo Saragosa received the Coaches' Award, a tribute to his work ethic at training.
Stephen King received the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year award.