By THOMAS FLOYD
If all goes according to plan in the nation's captial, the centerback pairing of Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald could be in the early stages of a long, productive tenure.
D.C. United signed McDonald, acquired in a June trade with the San Jose Earthquakes, to a contract extension Tuesday, putting an end to rumors the 25-year-old would test the European waters at season's end, when his contract was previously set to expire.
To coach Ben Olsen, having the scrappy defender committed for the long haul means a key piece of United's roster puzzle is firmly in place.
"It's good to get that behind us," Olsen said. "Now we can focus on a back line we can keep together. You look at the teams that have success, and it's important to have particularly your two centerbacks stick around for a little bit and really get a good rapport with each other."
Added McDonald: "I think we've got a goal set for myself and the club. Our goal together is to win a championship and nothing less."
Here are some more notes from around the Eastern Conference:
Right back Dan Gargan has been with the Fire for less than a month since being traded from Toronto, but he already knows he's "a lot happier" in Chicago than he was north of the border. The 28-year-old exacted some revenge against his old club Sunday, notching a goal in the Fire's 2-0 win over Toronto.
"I think that the coaches in Toronto made it pretty clear to me that they weren't huge fans of mine for whatever reason," Gargan said to ESPN Chicago. "I guess the direction they were heading in is going to take some time [and] and they didn't really want to keep me around in the plans."
After falling out of favor for much of the past three months, midfielder Kevin Burns has re-emerged for the Crew, having started two consecutive matches. The playing time has been a fair reward for a player who has committed to extra workouts throughout the summer to maintain his fitness and stay sharp despite his lack of minutes.
"You're a little depressed,” Burns said to MLSsoccer.com of not playing. "It's like showing up on Saturday and just sitting there. … No player wants to do that. I don't want to be that guy, so when I get my chance, I'm ready to go and not give them a reason or excuse for me not being out there."
Brazilian midfielder Luiz Camargo, who secured a visa to officially join the Dynamo last week, has started training with the club. Not surprisingly, his initial thoughts on practicing in Houston were directed toward the city's renowned heat.
"The training was really good, very similar to the type of training in Brazil," Camargo said via a translator to the Houston Chronicle. "But today was very hot. It feels like I will have to adapt to this warmth and the weather."
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
With Rajko Lekic's return from a foot injury Saturday, the Revolution finally got to deploy the forward partnership most envisioned when the club signed Milton Caraglio as a Designated Player. Caraglio responded by notching a first-half brace in New England's 2-2 draw with the Red Bulls, showing notable chemistry with Lekic.
"He's a good player, he's a strong player, and he's scoring goals," Lekic said of Caraglio to RevolutionSoccer.net. "We are pretty much thinking soccer the same way, so that's nice."
NEW YORK RED BULLS
With five of its final eight games at home and a fairly spread-out schedule to wrap up the season, New York knows now is the time to return to its early-season form, pick up a playoff berth and build some momentum heading toward the postseason, starting with Sunday's marquee matchup with Los Angeles at Red Bull Arena.
"We had some injuries, we had the Gold Cup, we had a lot of players out," General Manager Erik Soler said to the New York Post. "Now there isn't any excuse at all. We have no more injuries than other teams. We have no traveling, so we can play at this facility. We have no midweek games — only once in the next six weeks. … We have everything we need now, all the tools."
The Union picked up a 5-3 friendly win at the Harrisburg City Islanders on Wednesday, scoring five consecutive goals in the second half after falling behind 2-0 in the first 19 minutes.
Justin Mapp, Ryan Richter, Zach Pfeffer, Roger Torres and trialist Joe Tait found net for Philadelphia, which started a largely first-choice lineup that included Dan Califf, Sheanon Williams, Freddy Adu, Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
While Kansas City continues to rack up the points amid its rapid surge up the Eastern Conference table, it might be easy to forget the notable players who have been out of actionfor coach Peter Vermes' side. Captain Davy Arnaud participated in training Tuesday and Wednesday as he continued working his way back from hernia surgery, while Aurelien Collin and Jeferson both seem poised to return from injury Saturday.
"It's good to see [Arnaud] two days in a row," Vermes said to MLSsoccer.com. "He really doesn't have any pain so far, which is great. With all the guys, I'll make the blanket statement that they have to get consistent days of training in."
Backup goalkeeper Milos Kocic has emerged as a solid option for Toronto in recent weeks while banged-up starter Stefan Frei has rested on the sidelines. For Kocic, who has made just six starts in three MLS seasons (two with Toronto), actually earning some first-team minutes has been a welcome change.
"It's been a long two years without playing consistently for Toronto FC," Kocic said to the Canadian Press. "Now I feel playing these couple of games in a row has helped my confidence, helped me feel more relaxed in the field."