D.C. United and the Washington Freedom warmed up for their back-to-back games Saturday in RFK Stadium with back-to-back practices Friday in RFK, giving those of us seeking economy in our journalism a chance to talk with a few players from both teams in one session.
A few stories to watch:
United injuries and turnover: Clyde Simms is back. New defender Juan Manuel Pena could go the full 90, says coach Curt Onalfo. Forward Danny Allsopp passed a Friday fitness test. And if the paperwork goes through, United could bring former league MVP Luciano Emilio off the bench.
Weather: Unfortunately, these players will be returning into a cauldron. The game is at 4 p.m., and the forecast simply says “very hot.”
“I’m excited about everything except for that,” Simms said as he dripped sweat after Friday’s practice. “A lot of hydration today and tomorrow, and I’ll be all right.”
Onalfo wants his players to keep possession. “It’s easier to run in heat if you have the ball.”
Quick transition: One nice thing about the heat is that the players won’t need much time to warm up. That works for the Freedom and Athletica, who have agreed to warm up quickly and try to get their game started 15 minutes after the United-Red Bulls game ends.
“Last year (with the Freedom playing first), I thought we played too early for the sake of getting the field cleared out for the MLS game,” Freedom coach Jim Gabarra said. “I felt it should be tight. We don’t want to make people wait around.”
Big WPS matchup: The St. Louis Athletica roster is imposing. Hope Solo’s in goal. Shannon Boxx is in midfield.
“This is one of the tougher matchups we’ll see in WPS,” Gabarra said.
Both teams have speedy forwards – Washington’s Lisa De Vanna and St. Louis’ Eniola Aluko. Not that De Vanna can simply outrun the St. Louis defense.
“Tina Ellertson’s pretty much as fast as Lisa, and she’s strong,” Wambach said.
“If we can beat St. Louis, who a lot of experts are saying is one of the best teams in the league, I think that gives us a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season,” defender Cat Whitehill said.