D.C. United’s season could reach a new low point this week, thanks to a minimal attendance expected for a midweek match in which they’ll try to snap a five-game losing streak. (To be fair, Houston isn’t exactly set up for a victory, having to travel cross country from Los Angeles after beating the Galaxy, 1-0, on Sunday night.) But things continue to go well for their young players on loan with the Richmond Kickers in USL Pro.
Rookie forward Michael Seaton, whose 17th birthday last week was slightly less celebrated than coach Ben Olsen’s, scored in his professional debut for the Kickers in a 2-0 win at Wilmington on Friday night. He also made his presence felt in Richmond’s 3-3 tie with Charlotte on Saturday night, but it was center back Conor Shanosky who was got the game-tying goal, also his first as a pro, in stoppage time.
Combined with Casey Townsend’s two goals, United players have accounted for four Kickers goals – tying them for as many scores as the first team has by its entire roster.
Seaton, Shanosky, Townsend, Taylor Kemp and Andrew Dykstra were all back in Washington to train with D.C. United (1-6-1) on Monday. It will be curious to see who if any of the five will figure against the Dynamo.
As I wrote last week, United general manager Dave Kasper acknowledged that the loan system between Richmond and D.C. is still a work in progress. Certainly it’s not entirely the traditional loan model, where players would dedicate themselves solely to one team and the team loaning them out would be content to let them go and should be deep enough not to require their services. Clearly, for a struggling United that’s not the case, and the hybrid situation, borne partially out of necessity, has already put strain both on the players and the Kickers.
Not only does Richmond train for much of the time without a key portion of its team – a group of player which has helped the Kickers (3-0-2) to go undefeated so far this season – it is left to make tough decisions on little notice should United decide to recall any of its players. Townsend’s situation against Philadelphia on Apr. 21 was a good demonstration of how it shouldn’t work. The United coaching staff had the second-year forward ready to come in late with the team down 3-2 but then stumbled over their decision making and instead called on Robbie Russell, who nearly cost them another goal. Townsend got to put on his jersey but in the end didn’t play any minutes. What made it worse was that he missed the chance to play 90 for the Kickers, too.
That experience should figure into how the players are handled this week, too. Dykstra and Shanosky each played 180 minutes in two days last weekend, Kemp and Seaton saw action in both games and Townsend only played Saturday night.