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D.C. United begins pre-season training on Wednesday, with many questions still unanswered

By Coree Reuter

On Wednesday morning D.C. United will officially begin preparations for the 2012 Major League Soccer season with its firsttraining session of the year.

This week United will split their time between outdoor sessions at a Virginia artificial-turf field and indoor sessions in Maryland for a round of fitness training on January 19. United will then head south to Florida, Arizona and South Carolina for the remainder of their pre-season training.

While United’s season got off to a good start last year, Chris Pontius’ devastating broken leg, sustained during the team’s 3-0 victory over Chivas USA on September 10, seemed to shake the squad. As the Washington Post’s Steven Goff notes, United went 1-6-2 without their star midfielder and never quite gained their spark back.

Pontius hopes to return to training by March 1, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be game ready for United’s first regular season game against Sporting Kansas City on March 10.

While Pontius’ status is still in question, United does have a potential new star in the form of Nick DeLeon, whom they picked in the seventh round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft last week. A left winger who is also capable of playing as a striker, DeLeon was a youth standout at Arizona’s Cisco SC and began his college career at UNLV before transferring to Louisville before his junior year. He scored 14 goals and nine assists in two seasons under Cardinals coach Ken Lolla and was named to the All-Big East team in both years.

United also plans on bringing some other players in to compete for a contract during training camp, but haven’t revealed any information about potential players. Pontius hopes to have his brother, Tim Pontius, a strong centerback who also played at UC Santa Barbera, join him with the Black-and-Red as a free agent and other less-recognized faces are likely to join the team as trialists during preseason.

While United’s roster still appears short at 19, they did sign veteran right back Robbie Russell from Real Salt Lake. Dwayne De Rosario, whose contract ends in 2012, is looking to extend his contract with the club, and according to United’s general manager Dave Kasper, who spoke with Goff last week, those conversations have been positive.

United’s current roster boasts four home grown players in goalkeeper Bill Hamid, midfielders Andy Najar and Conor Shanosky, and defender Ethan White. Defender Perry Kitchen remains their only Generation Adidas member, and Branko Boskovic continues as the designated player. Forward Josh Wolff is the oldest member of the squad at 34, and Najar, 18, is the youngest.