WASHINGTON – After a solid debut season in the pro ranks, D.C. United midfielder Perry Kitchen plans on building off his impressive rookie campaign.
But before jumping into preseason with both feet, Kitchen had to come back slowly, as he was nursing a toe injury suffered during the offseason at the start of training camp.
“I’m totally fine, thankfully,” he told reporters on Friday. “It was definitely painful, I felt it for a few weeks. I’m way past the period of the recovery, so I’m 100 percent ready to go.”
Kitchen picked up the injury while training in Germany with Bundesliga side Freiburg late last year. He said that he bent his big toe back while making a sliding challenge and colliding awkwardly with a player’s foot.
The injury limited him only at the beginning of training camp. By last week, he was fully recovered, playing 45 minutes each in two preseason matches while the team was in Florida.
The second-year US youth international is expected to start this year in a holding midfield role after playing various positions last year, including right back and center back. His transition to that spot remains the focus of his preseason preparations.
“I’ve been playing there, so that’s what I plan on doing,” he said. “There’s still work to be done; I’m not perfect in there right now. Just have to keep training. We still have a lot more preseason training to go.”
One of the motivational forces for Kitchen early this season will be a chance to make the US Under-23 Olympic qualifying team. With the CONCACAF tournament approaching at the end of March, Kitchen will only have a short time to impress head coach Caleb Porter.
While Porter is familiar with Kitchen after having coached the midfielder at Akron, the 19-year-old doesn’t take anything for granted.
“I’m going to work hard and try my best to be a part of [the Olympic team],” Kitchen said. “We’ll see how it plays out.”
Recovery from the toe injury certainly didn’t help, as it caused Kitchen to miss a pair of U-23 camps in December and January.
But whether he makes that squad or not, Kitchen remains fully focused on United and has high hopes for his second season as a professional.
“[We want to accomplish] our goals that we didn’t achieve last year,” he said. “Making the playoffs, making a run, becoming one of the better teams in this league. We think we can do that.”