While some of his teammates were relaxing and on vacation during the offseason, D.C. United defender Jed Zayner was busy welcoming a new member to his family.
His wife Katie gave birth to the couple’s first child on Nov. 24, and for the following two months Zayner quickly made a big adjustment to fatherhood, caring for his wife and newborn child.
“It’s a full-time job,” Zayner told MLSsoccer.com. “I told her I was her nanny for the next couple of months. She definitely utilized that. I swear those first two weeks were a blur in my head and still are.”
Becoming a father was certainly a huge change for the 26-year-old defender. But while making that transition, he also made sure to maintain a high level of fitness, and he was prepared to hit the ground running with United when preseason began in January.
This camp marks his first with the team after joined DC from the Columbus Crew last August in exchange for a draft pick.
[inline_node:329411]“It was definitely an interesting move because I was going from the best team in the league [at the time] to the worst,” he said. “But of all the moves, it seemed like a perfect move for me.”
The move gave the versatile defender a chance at more playing time, and he started all nine of the games he appeared in during the season’s second half.
He was certainly there long enough to know why things didn’t go well last season for United, and has already noticed the shifting mentality put in place by head coach Ben Olsen.
“I think the biggest thing last year is we took off during plays, and I don’t think we were as focused as we could be,” he said.
“That came from lack of motivation, lack of team chemistry, all of the above. This year, Ben’s crunching on it hard. He’s making sure everybody works every second of the day, and no one takes time off.”
Even though the preseason is just past the halfway point, Zayner is focused on putting in the work to ensure he’s in the starting lineup.
While he bounced around last year in DC, playing on the left, right and in the middle, he admitted to preferring the right side.
“Right back’s definitely my favorite because I can get up and down the line and swing balls in,” he said.
Off the field, he’s also thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with the team and thinks that there’s a good vibe in the group, even after only a few weeks traveling together – a good sign for the coming season.
Two of those new faces in camp, Chris Korb and Perry Kitchen, are indirectly tied to Zayner’s through their college roots. Korb and Kitchen were drafted out of Akron, and their coach, Caleb Porter, was an assistant during Zayner’s playing days for Indiana.
“These boys definitely have the Hoosier mentality of fighting hard and doing whatever it takes to win,” he said.