After watching the final 13 matches of the regular season and D.C. United’s run through last year’s Eastern Conference playoffs from the bench, defender Daniel Woolard is healthy and ready to put his head injury behind him.
Woolard suffered a concussion in an August 4 match against Columbus after bumping heads with then-teammate Emiliano Dudar.
“I think the time allowed me to kind of forget about the injury,” Woolard said of the offseason. “I was feeling fine, healthy and had no issues at the end of the season. But I guess you could say it was still in my head.
“Now I’m more confident. I’m back to my normal self. I feel I don’t think about the injury at all anymore. It’s good to have that extra time off to get away from it for a little bit.”
Woolard has been wearing protective headgear this preseason and plans to continue doing so throughout the course of the regular-season slate.
“I think I’m going to continue wearing it. If there’s anything you can do to prevent a head injury, why not do it?” he said. “It’s just another safety thing for me. If it’s out there, why not use it just to give you a little extra protection? I’m not wearing it because I still have any symptoms or I need to worry about my head now, it’s just to prevent another injury.”
A healthy Woolard would be a big boost to United’s backline, which already was shaping up to create quite the competition for playing time before Thursday’s news that the club acquired defender James Riley from Chivas USA. Prior to his injury, Woolard logged 1,754 minutes in 20 starts over the course of 2012 and displayed his versatility by playing multiple positions.
This preseason, he’ll be competing to get similar kinds of minutes by playing both in the the center and on the left side of defense.
“I don’t really have a preference,” Woolard said. “I’m actually very comfortable at center back as well as left back, where I played most of my games. I’m very comfortable in both positions. Wherever I’m needed, I’m happy to step in.”
The transfer of United’s former right back Andy Najar to RSC Anderlecht means there will likely be more competition among United’s defenders for playing time. Robbie Russell, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic and Chris Korb all logged significant minutes last year along with Woolard, while newcomers Taylor Kemp and Riley also could be in the mix.