Notes: Nelsen happy to be back
Under sunny California skies, D.C. United worked through a light-hearted but energetic training session Friday at The Home Depot Center's practice fields. In contrast to Kansas City's all-business approach, United's young squad were clearly enjoying their MLS Cup week preparations, with plenty of yelling and trash-talking, led by evergreen veteran Earnie Stewart and captain Ryan Nelsen, who is obviously delighted to be returning to action after missing last week's thrilling Eastern Conference Final through suspension.
"I think it was more draining on the sideline than it was playing -- a bit scary," said United's captain of the New England nailbiter. "I suppose you could say I'm refreshed, but I think the confidence that the boys got out of that amazing game, the rollercoaster they went through, is going to be a big plus going into a big game like this."
EZ IN QUESTION: Ezra Hendrickson, who filled Nelsen's central defender spot against the Revolution, is nursing a calf strain that threatens to keep him out of Sunday's game.
"I did it Tuesday in training, and I thought maybe by today it would be better, but it swelled up on the flight out here and it just hasn't healed properly," said the big Vincentian. "We're going to give it one more day and see what happens. I'm probably 70 percent right now -- we're doing a lot of treatment and hopefully it will get better.
"I don't think it's going to be 100 percent by Sunday, but hopefully I'll be able to go. As of right now, we don't know."
Hendrickson is especially anxious to be in uniform for the final because of his special roots here in Los Angeles. A former Galaxy star and fan favorite, Hendrickson's wife and newborn daughter, Xavia, have remained in L.A. while Hendrickson made a midseason move to D.C.
"It's been great. I'm back, I get to see my newborn daughter," he said. "I haven't gotten to spend much time with her since she was born, since I had to go back to the playoffs. My wife has been by the hotel every day with my daughter. It's nice -- my mom and dad just came in today, so I'll get to see them tonight.
"I love Southern California, and I'm looking forward to this game on Sunday. It's a great stadium, it's going to be a good game, and I'm really pumped. Hopefully I'll get a little better so I can contribute on the field."
EQUIPMENT CHANGE? Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and United's back three of Nelsen, Mike Petke and Bryan Namoff spent extra time fielding crosses and high balls at training, partly because of the Wizards' playing style but also because of an interesting equipment issue.
"They're a team that likes to cross a lot," said Rimando, "But I think the main reason we're doing it is that they've brought out new balls for this game.
"These balls are going all over the place -- they're pretty different, definitely different than the regular balls. They say it's the same ball, but it's definitely flying all over the place and doing different moves. I wanted to see how the ball was in the air."
Said Petke: "I don't know why they brought a new ball out two days before the MLS Cup, but it is what it is. We have to deal with it -- a soccer ball is a soccer ball."
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.