WASHINGTON — Prior last week’s 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders, midfielder Stephen King had yet to step on the field for D.C. United during league play this year.
In and out of the starting lineup last season after being acquired in a trade with the Sounders, King’s role in 2011 had been limited to minutes in US Open Cup play-in and reserve matches. But when Clyde Simms had to come off last Wednesday with an injury, King was ready for action.
After a strong 10-minute performance helped preserve the midweek win, King got the start in midfield on Saturday and played all 90 minutes against FC Dallas in a 0-0 draw.
“It felt great,” King told MLSsoccer.com after Saturday’s game. “To come into this week and not have any minutes yet, and to get in at the very end of the game on Wednesday and to get the start [Saturday], I was just really excited for the opportunity.”
King lined up next to Dax McCarty, and the two formed an effective partnership despite being outmanned in the middle of the park as they lined up in a 4-4-2 against FC Dallas’ five-man midfield.
WATCH: Full match highlights
King was the third player McCarty has started next to this year.
Because the two are similar players, it allowed the team to play a bit differently. Instead of Simms sitting directly in front of the back line and only McCarty playing in a more advance role, he and King could take turns meandering forward to join the attack while one stayed back to cover defensively.
“Stephen’s a guy with a great motor, very good on the ball, good technical skill,” McCarty said. “He’s similar to what I like to do.”
Added McCarty, “With Clyde in there it’s a little bit different – he likes to sit in a little bit more, and be more of the defensive guy and give me a little bit more freedom. With Stephen, it brings a different dynamic to the table. We can both be more flattened out, side-by-side, next to each other.”
And though the central midfield duo's solid play didn’t translate to D.C. United taking all three points, King’s performance drew positive remarks from his coach Ben Olsen.
“I thought he was great; he’s a wonderful kid,” Olsen said. “He comes everyday with the same mentality and he is a great teammate. It’s been a tough year for him and he has been out of the loop, but he stepped in and did a really good job.”
King said he was training hard throughout his stint on the bench, working hard and ready to go when called on.
“It’s just one of those things where you’re at this level and you always have to be ready for your opportunity, and train each week as though you’re going to play and always be fit,” King said.