WASHINGTON – D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said on Tuesday he hasn’t finalized his starting 11 as the club prepares for a critical six-match onslaught in August. That's an encouraging sign for defender Ethan White, who said on Wednesday that he’s hopeful he’ll be able to earn minutes now that he’s fully recovered from knee surgery.
White spent roughly 10 minutes after Wednesday morning’s training taking extra shots on goal. He said his right knee “feels like it’s 100 percent” following a medial meniscectomy in mid-March.
“I feel pretty good," the center back said. "There’s no more swelling, no more soreness. I’m just trying to get back and compete for some playing time."
The 21-year-old center back from Kensington, Md., hasn’t stepped foot on an MLS field since Oct. 22 of last year. However, he’s no stranger to playing meaningful minutes for United.
In his rookie season, the University of Maryland product and Homegrown player started 21 matches and logged 1,928 minutes in 24 games. He scored his first career professional goal in a 2-2 draw against Chivas USA on Sept. 21, 2011.
Prior to his knee surgery, White traveled to Germany last November to undergo sports hernia surgery on both his right and left sides. He admits that the injuries have been frustrating.
“Playing is what I love and not playing is tough,” White said.
In last Saturday’s World Football Challenge match against Paris Saint-Germain, Dejan Jakovic and Emiliano Dudar started at center back for D.C., with Daniel Woolard and Chris Korb at left and right back, respectively. In the club’s previous match, a 1-0 loss in Columbus, Brandon McDonald started in place of Dudar. Right back Robbie Russell remains out with plantar fasciitis.
“You’ve got to play your best day in and day out, or somebody’s coming for your spot,” said White, who has been training for a month-and-a-half with no pain. “That keeps your eyes on the prize. You never know when you’re going to get called up, so you fight your hardest.”
White, who saw time with the US Under-23 national team in 2011, displayed a consistently physical style of play throughout his first MLS season. With 11 matches scheduled for the next two months, he could very well earn some playing time depending on how he performs in training and how Olsen chooses to structure his back line.
“Benny tells me all the time that I’m one of the guys he can rely on if I do need to step in and play,” White said. “And if I do get the opportunity, I need to make sure I keep it. The hardest part is breaking into the lineup.”