D.C. United notes: Players react to NYC FC; DeLeon showcases versatility; and more

D.C. United notes: Players react to NYC FC; DeLeon showcases versatility; and more

MLS- D.C. United

D.C. United notes: Players react to NYC FC; DeLeon showcases versatility; and more

PontiusLade (Getty)

By THOMAS FLOYD

WASHINGTON — As Chris Pontius wrapped up training at RFK Stadium on Tuesday, he got wind of the news that his D.C. United side will be gaining a new Eastern Conference rival come 2015.

Then he found out New York City FC will be owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees.

“Oh, Jesus,” he said. “So there will be no money in that team, right?”

The reverberations of MLS’ game-changing announcement were felt a few hours down I-95 in the nation’s capital, where United have long enjoyed a heated feud with the New York Red Bulls.

While coach Ben Olsen wasn’t an immediate fan of the NYCFC moniker (“Unbelievable — that’s some acronym.”), he was happy to add a fourth club to a mid-Atlantic region that not so long ago featured just United and the Red Bulls.

“I’d rather have it there than the Pacific Northwest,” Olsen quipped. “It’s an easy train ride for us.”

Added captain Dwayne De Rosario, a former Red Bull: “It will be interesting to see a game actually in New York, in the city. It’s a very passionate soccer community in New York, so to have another team, I think it makes sense. It’s big enough.”

Here are some more notes from RFK Stadium on Tuesday:

DELEON’S VERSATILITY IMPRESSES

Perry Kitchen found himself with yet another central midfield partner during Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City, as Nick DeLeon stepped in and went the full 90 in the middle of the park. While he acknowledged having plenty of room to improve, particularly defensively, DeLeon relished the opportunity.

“I feel like I got on the ball a little more in there, so I liked it,” DeLeon said. “The more touches I can get, the better I feel.”

As Olsen noted, DeLeon’s performance centrally was an indication of the versatility of the second-year player, who has mostly been used as a winger since joining United.

“It was filling a gap, but I thought he filled it in very nicely,” said Olsen, who also has tried John Thorrington, Marcelo Saragosa, Lewis Neal, Raphael Augusto and De Rosario in central midfield this season. “When you do that sometimes, you now have options going forward. And Nick’s one of those kids I feel comfortable plugging in anywhere on the field except centerback. He’s just one of those guys that kind of gets it.”

Olsen did give DeLeon 19 minutes off the bench at right back in a 4-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo earlier this month, making a fullback assignment for the 22-year-old — who said he played right back during his youth soccer days — another realistic option.

“That was fun,” DeLeon said. “When you get the ball, you have a lot of space out there to make stuff happen. I don’t mind it.”

LACK OF POSSESSION FRUSTRATES DE ROSARIO

Playing as a withdrawn forward against Kansas City, De Rosario saw little of the ball as United struggled to cope with Sporting’s high-pressure system, maintaining just 40 percent of possession.

“I’m just watching the ball go over my head,” De Rosario said. “So in that respect, I’m not being really used to my strength. Like I always say, I try to just do what I can to help this team out, try to be as diverse as I can.”

Added Olsen: “He didn’t have a lot of the ball because we didn’t have a lot of the ball. At times, we’ve asked him to be better when the ball does go to him. There’s a lot to work on with this group. A consistent lineup at some point will help us, but we haven’t had that luxury.”

THREE MORE ON TRIAL

Midfielder Jesjua Angoy Cruyff (Wigan), fullback Peter Gregory (Nottingham Forest) and forward Mike Grella (Scunthorpe United) joined the club on trial Tuesday.

Cruyff is the grandson of Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, while Grella was a standout at Duke University drafted by Toronto FC in 2009.

“We’re going to see a lot of guys come through this door,” Olsen said. “It’s a tough task over a couple of days to really make decisions on guys like this.”

FREE KICKS

Striker Rafael suffered his concussion in training last week when he collided with a goalkeeper. “I bet you can guess which one [it was] that put an impact on him,” Olsen said, alluding to physically imposing starter Bill Hamid. … Neal (groin) jogged on the side. He hasn’t played since March 23.

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