Onstad readies for unexpected return to goal
WASHINGTON – Pat Onstad’s short-lived retirement will end Saturday. If you blinked, you may have missed it.
The 43-year-old is the favorite to mind the net for D.C. United against the Columbus Crew on Saturday after signing a contract to act as a player-coach last week.
“I think this last week is about what I would feel normally in a preseason, so now just trying to fine-tune things before the match,” Onstad said.
Getting to this point took a lot of work. Onstad hadn’t gone through his normal offseason regimen, since he retired in November and was making a career shift into coaching. When the decision was made to bring Onstad back in the wake of Steve Cronin’s wrist injury, he wasn’t in bad shape, but not at the level he would have liked.
“For the last three weeks I worked pretty hard,” he said. “I was doing two-a-days: train in the morning with the guys and hit the gym in the afternoon. So I worked pretty hard to get to that point.”
[inline_node:325042]Having Onstad in goal will certainly help United’s young defense. With the veteran back in the net, he’ll be able to marshal his back line, keeping things organized in front of him.
“I’ve always been a pretty vocal guy in goal and it’s always been one of my strengths. I’ve been a good organizer,” he said. “I think the only difference is instead of doing it from the sideline I’ll be doing it from the field.”
As far as his day-to-day role within the organization, it’s looked a bit different. Onstad is usually one of the last to leave training, and he still travels with head coach Ben Olsen and the assistant Chad Ashton.
But at the same time, he trains and plays in scrimmages, and held a meeting with some of the defenders in the wake of the final 2-2 preseason game against Toronto in Charleston, S.C.
“It’s funny because today I called the four [defenders] in and we spoke about our performance a little bit and just kind of had an open forum chat,” he said. “That’s something I would have done if I was a goalie in Houston – if we had a bad performance the five of us would have talked about why it was bad and how we could improve it.”
It’s unclear how long Onstad’s deal to serve as both a player and coach will last, though the club announced in early March that he signed a “short-term contract.” Cronin, who fractured his wrist in training, is currently recovering from the injury and Bill Hamid trained fully for the first time on March 16.