Tampa Bay Sports Day

United team and players continue recovery

Julius James-the man who got the entire Toronto FC technical staff sacked with one swing of his left foot. James’ goal in the 81st minute propelled DC United past Toronto last weekend effectively ending the tenures of coach Preki Radosavljevic and Soccer Director Mo Johnston.

Not only was it a good win for struggling United, the goal added a nice sprinkle of sugar on an otherwise tumultuous season for the team and himself. While he didn’t want to admit that the goal was a touch satisfying on a personal level, his face and smile said otherwise.

The Trinidad & Tobago international was traded to Houston in December 2008 for Dwayne DeRosario and some allocation money after a moderately successful rookie season. Though Toronto in some ways gave up on him despite getting an MLS MVP in return, it was nothing like how former United coach Curt Onalfo did early this season.

“The former coach, he didn’t have too much confidence in me, you know,” said James. “He brought in two different center backs, three actually [Juan Manuel Pena, Carey Talley, Barry Rice], and they all got a chance before I did. I worked my [male genitalia] off, man, and I kept my head down. Thank god I had the opportunity to play, and I thank god for good health.”

Onalfo favored the veteran Pena to play alongside Dejan Jakovic in the center of United’s defense, and with his quality and experience that was a fair assessment. After Pena went down with his lingering quad injury, Onalfo pushed Talley inside, although he was originally slated to play on the flank.

With injuries along the way to Jakovic, he then turned to the less experienced Rice, who was pedestrian at best and finally slid James into the starting central role more or less by default.

“I spoke to him at the beginning of the season,” said James regarding a meeting he set up with the former coach. “I told him, ‘I’m a guy who wants to be here. I’m going to fight, scrap, do whatever is necessary to help the team,’ and I guess my little speech wasn’t good enough. I never had anything easy, and it has made me a stronger person.”

Though 6-feet tall and a sturdy 180 lbs, his relative shortness may not be the typical or perhaps preferred stature of the “put him in there and forget about it” central defender. He thinks he can get the job done in this league and on a team that has been as dreadful as this, why not find out if he actually can?

Pontius officially shelved for the season; Simms not quite yet

Chris Pontius will have surgery this Friday in California on his ailing hamstring effectively ending his frustrating sophomore season. After meeting with multiple doctors over the past three weeks, they finally concluded this past weekend that surgery was the best solution to completely heal the hamstring and give him any hope of returning to the promising form that got him a U.S, National Team camp invite during the off season.

Pontius, who was also a rookie of the year finalist, will be out 4-6 months. In a bit of irony, MLS also announced on Tuesday that the 2011 season will start on March 19, which is exactly 6 months from this Sunday.

“I just kind of want this thing to be over with. I don’t want to have to deal with this hamstring again,” said the obviously frustrated 23 year old midfielder.

Pontius has been working with Randy Rocha, United Strength and Conditioning Coach, to strengthen the hamstring and the muscles around along with extensive gait training to effectively change his running technique. Rocha had said earlier in the season that the gait training was to get him to run a bit lower and “attack the ground” with more power.

“We thought there would be a chance I would be able to avoid it so that’s why we did all the strengthening. It’s the same thing that happened in April; my body is healed from it but it’s still torn off the bone so if I ever want to run at the pace I know I can run at, I need to get this.

Pontius will stay at home in Los Angeles for 6-weeks and work out with Athletes Performance at the Home Depot Center. He will then return to Washington in November before finishing the off season back in Los Angeles.

Former United star Ryan Nelsen has successfully returned from this type of surgery as has another former United player and current New York Red Bull Chris Albright and Los Angeles defender Sean Franklin.

“Mentally I got to be stable with this whole thing,” said Pontius. “I know it’s going to be frustrating not being able to play, not being able to move for a while but I have to see the light at the end of the tunnel…I wanted to come in and have a good second year in the league and live up to some of the expectations and I know I that I can so it’s frustrating especially when you see the team struggling as much as it is. I always want to be out on the field. I have never dealt with anything like this before in my career.”

On the flip side, Clyde Simms will stay put, but perhaps not a minute longer than the end of the season. A probable sports hernia, also an injury Nelsen recovered from during his time with United, kept him out of the 1-0 win at Toronto last weekend.

“It’s the same symptoms I dealt with last season,” said Simms, who went through full training on Tuesday. “Last season when I went to Germany they examined both sides and said they saw where it started, but didn’t recommend surgery. We just have to have good communication.”

The problem is on the left side this year following surgery on the right side last year.

“Obviously it’s a wear-and-tear type of deal. The more I’m doing in training, I am going to have to find that fine line where you train enough to stay fit but at the same time, not too much to aggravate it. Today felt great and I was glad I was able to get through a tough training so that is a positive.”

NOTES:

United traded defender Carey Talley, 34, to New York for a conditional second round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Talley returned to United this season where he started his career in 1998 and played in 15 matches (13 starts, 1,141 minutes).

United also signed Carlos Varela, 33, through December with team options following. The flank, attacking midfielder will be used primarily off the bench.

“He is a guy that can give a spark off the bench. He runs with the players very well,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “He is still adapting. It’s a good chance for us, for the rest of the year, to take a look at him to see if he is somebody that we want a part of this team in the future.”

Also this week, United signed 19 year old Junior Carriero, who has been training with the team all season and is the brother of former United standout, Fred.