Well-trav­eled Du­dar in­tent on prov­ing he still can con­trib­ute

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY THOMAS FLOYD

Emil­iano Du­dar has en­joyed a long, fruit­ful ca­reer. But the D.C. United de­fender still thinks he has plenty to prove.

The Ar­gentina na­tive played the past three years with dec­o­rated Swiss side BSC Young Boys, earn­ing recog­ni­tion as the league’s top de­fender dur­ing the 2009-10 cam­paign. While the 6foot-4 cen­ter back’s ca­reer nearly was de­railed in Septem­ber 2010 when he suf­fered a con­cus­sion that briefly put him into a med­i­cally in­duced coma, he re­turned af­ter a three-month ab­sence to start an­other 17 games that sea­son.

This past fall, how­ever, Du­dar was rel­e­gated to the bench by new Young Boys man­ager Chris­tian Gross. Frus­trated with his lack of play­ing time, the 30-year-old set his sights on a new chal­lenge. In Jan­uary, he signed on a free trans­fer with a United team that al­lowed the fourth-most goals in MLS last sea­son.

For Du­dar, it’s the 13th club, sixth coun­try and third con­ti­nent his ca­reer has taken him to since he de­buted at age 19. Yet as far as he’s con­cerned, he’s back to square one.

“It’s ba­si­cally start­ing over again in my ca­reer,” Du­dar said via a trans­la­tor. “I want to prove to my­self that the coach I had be­fore was wrong and that I am able to start and that I can play.”

Earn­ing his first start with D.C. in a score­less draw at the Van­cou­ver White­caps last week­end, Du­dar used his aerial prow­ess, smart dis­tri­bu­tion and sooth­ing in­flu­ence to help United hold the home side with­out a shot on goal. It was a seam­less tran­si­tion into the lineup that didn’t sur­prise coach Ben Olsen, who said he could tell Du­dar “likes the big stage.”

“It’s a dif­fi­cult thing to do, to step into a back line when you haven’t been work­ing with those guys as much, but he’s done a great job,” right back Rob­bie Rus­sell said. “His size is a big plus for us. He’s very calm on the ball, and he’s good at help­ing us keep a lit­tle more pos­ses­sion. As long as we can work him to his strengths, it’s a good ad­di­tion for us.”

Although Du­dar’s re­sume in­cludes ex­pe­ri­ence in the pres­ti­gious UEFA Cham­pi­ons League and Europa League, he still lost the bat­tle for a start­ing job out of United’s pre­sea­son as Olsen went with in­cum­bents De­jan Jakovic and Bran­don Mcdon­ald at cen­ter back for the club’s first two matches.

“I knew when I was com­ing here I wasn’t go­ing to be an in­dis­putable starter,” Du­dar ac­knowl­edged. “I knew I was go­ing to have to fight for my spot on the team. I took it as some­thing nat­u­ral and I tried to ap­proach it the best way.”

He didn’t have to wait long for his chance. Jakovic suf­fered a groin strain dur­ing United’s sec­ond game, giv­ing way to Du­dar for the sec­ond half of a 31 loss at Los An­ge­les. With Jakovic still not fully re­cov­ered, Du­dar is poised to again start Fri­day when United (0-2-1) host FC Dal­las (1-1-1) at RFK Sta­dium.

Du­dar showed a glimpse of what he can bring to the ta­ble in D.C.’S draw with Van­cou­ver, con­tain­ing 6-foot-4 striker Eric Hassli, one of the few for­wards in the league who can counter him phys­i­cally, while also de­vel­op­ing a rap­port in cen­tral de­fense with Mcdon­ald.

“It’s a work in progress,” Mcdon­ald said. “If you watch the tape and how we were mov­ing to­gether in de­fense, his strengths and my strengths, my com­mu­ni­ca­tion and his height in be­ing able to han­dle a guy like Hassli in this league, it’s big time for us.”

As Du­dar points out, mak­ing the jump to a new league and cul­ture al­ways is a chal­lenge. And the lan­guage bar­rier, of course, makes mat­ters all the more dif­fi­cult. But a fresh start also means am­ple op­por­tu­nity to progress, and it’s a trade­off Du­dar has em­braced.

“I do think I still can im­prove a lot more,” Du­dar said. “But the more min­utes I have, the more com­fort­able I’m feel­ing on the team. I hope to keep grow­ing and be able to give the best that I can give to the team, and that’s what I’m work­ing and train­ing hard for each day.”

D.C. UNITED

Emil­iano Du­dar, 30, started for D.C. in a score­less draw at Van­cou­ver on Satur­day. His first play­ing time came at Los An­ge­les on March 18 af­ter De­jan Jakovic suf­fered a groin strain.

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