Ethan White gets his chance to turn struggling D.C. United around

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Sports,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

Brings jolt of energy to struggling United

For a moment, it was almost like Ethan White was a rookie again. In fact, that was the last time he'd started a game before anchoring D.C. United's back line against FC Dallas last weekend.

Now in his third season, the former Maryland standout was so excited to be back in the first eleven that he missed the intended recipient on his first pass by two yards and picked up a yellow card with a hard tackle from behind on Eric Hassli in the first half hour. But he also provided the kind defensive bite that United (1-8-1, 4 points) has desperately needed, even though the 2-1 loss was a franchise-record seventh straight losing effort.

"I was pretty pumped, yeah," White said. "It's been a year and a half since I started a game so I was pretty worked up. I'd say the first 15 minutes, I might've been too worked up. I got the card and gave away the ball the first time, but it felt great to be out there."

In back-to-back previous games, center backs Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic took turns with horrible performances that were directly responsible for opposing goals. The inconsistency was enough to lead United coach Ben Olsen to insert White, 22, who was fierce and physical in 79 minutes on the field in Dallas.

"He's a competitor," Olsen said. "He's a guy that was tuned in for the whole game and played like it meant something, that he wanted to keep his spot. That was refreshing."

White's last start was in the 2011 regular-season finale, culminating a year in which the homegrown D.C. United academy product made 24 first-team appearances (21 starts).

But 2012 was a far different story. After undergoing sports hernia surgery in the offseason, White had a procedure on his right knee that added a delay to his return. Ultimately, he didn't see the field once during the regular season, playing only in the U.S. Open Cup against the Richmond Kickers and then joining the Kickers themselves for a half-dozen appearances on loan.

"I'm happy for him because Ethan, we've put him through a lot of [stuff] in the last couple years, not always having the most faith in him," Olsen said. "I'm glad he came in and did a good job."

The intensity of White's performance could have repercussions, as his tackle on Hassli could end up being reviewed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. But White is more concerned with United stopping its seven-game slide.

"A card is a card," he said. "It's a man's game. If they want to step in and say something, I'm not going to be happy about it. I feel like it was a hard tackle. I didn't think it was a card when I committed it, but watching it, I guess I tackled harder than I thought I did."

D.C. United added defender Frankie Simek, 28, who has played five times for the U.S. national team, and journeyman English forward Akpo Sodje, 33, on trial this week.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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