D.C. United opens preseason

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Penalty Kicks,Sports,Craig Stouffer

There wasn’t a single unfamiliar face among the 17 D.C. United players that gathered Friday morning at the George Mason Fieldhouse for baseline fitness testing ahead of the start of preseason this weekend in Bradenton, Fla.

Perry Kitchen pumped through 101 push-ups, Nick DeLeon, with a bleached head of hair and significant beard, showed his one-footed broad jump and Brandon McDonald worked on his vertical.

But Dwayne De Rosario, who will jet off with Dejan Jakovic to Canadian national team camp in Arizona for 10 days before joining D.C. United later, took a somewhat contrarian view of a team that finished last season strong and has experienced very little turnover. He was asked what he hopes United has gained from last season’s success.

“Hopefully, nothing,” De Rosario said. “Last year is last year. We gotta look at it as a different approach. Obviously, we’ve got to learn from last year, but you can’t look at last year’s success because that’s not really going to do anything. That means nothing for this year. It’s a whole new year. The main thing is getting a good preseason under our belt, every guy staying fit and getting ready for the first game of the season. Hopefully, come the first, every guy is healthy and ready to go.”

De Rosario’s message is that while D.C. United might not have change much, the rest of the league has, meaning nothing can be assumed. He also referenced United’s slow start in 2012, something he hopes the team doesn’t replicate.

Still, there are advantages, particularly in the chemistry and tactics departments.

“It’s good,” midfielder Chris Pontius said. “It’s different than the first three years I was here. I think we have a good core, and I think everyone is familiar with each other, which makes it easier on the playing field. We have a good base and some additions coming in, and we’ve got to fit them into the team right away.”

Still a few weeks away from full recovery from a groin strain suffered in the playoffs, Pontius still took part in a run around the indoor track with his teammates to set their baseline levels.

“Running straight forward doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s going to be more of kicking and quick reactions… What we don’t want to do is put me through a hard workout and set me back a couple days. I gotta be honest with him about how it’s feeling. It was a pretty bad groin pull. It’ll be good to get down there and do double days. I need to strengthen it, mainly.”

Here’s the list of absentees: Andy Najar (on loan with Anderlecht); goalkeepers Andrew Dykstra (training with Hartlepool in England) and expected trialist Diego Restrepo; defender Emiliano Dudar (status for 2013 unsettled); midfielders John Thorrington (no contract signed yet) and Raphael Augusto (not finalized for 2013 yet); and forward Hamdi Salihi (not in D.C. United’s plans, as expected, but how he and the team part ways is complicated and not done yet).

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