Whenever bringing a new player into a team, there is a necessary adjustment period, for both the player and the team. That player needs to become acquainted with how the team plays, what is expected of him, in addition to meeting his new teammates. And the reverse is generally the same. It’s best that the learning period mostly comes on the practice field, as it’s tough to learn on the fly during meaningful games.
When D.C. United unexpectedly announced the signing of Deshorn Brown last month, the team didn’t have that luxury. United were in the middle of a stretch of six games in 18 days, but they needed Brown’s help immediately, given their poor scoring record in 2017. Brown had just one training session with the team before his debut against Atlanta United, but the run of games after that left him little practice time to get adjusted to playing with the Black-and-Red.
Now, with the Gold Cup break, Brown is finally getting a chance to fit in with the team in training, and not just in games.
“It’s a good style. It’s kind of the same formation. I just have to adjust to the their style of play,” Brown told B&RU earlier this week, about United. “Now we have a break from the league to learn on that. I’m just going to come out each day and try to understand they way that they play.”
Though Brown didn’t come to United directly from within MLS, he still has experience in the league, something that might have helped him acclimate quicker. Brown was originally drafted out of college by the Colorado Rapids, and spent two productive seasons in the Rocky Mountains, before moving on to Valarenga in Norway. Brown then went to Shenzhen FC in China, before returning stateside to bide his time with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, hoping a higher league would come calling.
That’s when United stepped in, making a move that most expected wasn’t possible, with the secondary transfer window not yet opened, and considering Brown wasn’t a free agent when the primary window ended. But United General Manager Dave Kasper managed to get Brown in any way, helped in part by the Rowdies releasing Brown, facilitating the move to the nation’s capital.
But without much acclimatizing, Brown immediately became part of United’s set up. He was a brought on as a substitute against Atlanta and the Philadelphia Union. He wasn’t eligible to participate in United’s Open Cup loss to the New England Revolution, having already turned out this year for the Rowdies. But then Brown started against the Montreal Impact and FC Dallas, scoring his first goal for the Black-and-Red in United’s 4-2 loss to Dallas.
Now, given that the schedule has calmed down, Brown will have an opportunity to get a better feel for United on the training field, despite having already notched his first goal.
“It’s a matter of us figuring him out a bit. And him simplifying his runs and his movements, so we can now find him,” head coach Ben Olsen told B&RU on Tuesday. “He’s doing a lot of good work off the ball. And a lot of time the ball isn’t arriving.”
“That’s normal when you come in, and all you’re doing is playing games for a couple of weeks,” added Olsen. “You don’t get training sessions to develop those partnerships with guys like [Luciano Acosta], our wide midfielders, [Ian Harkes]. Even our center backs, when we do go direct, over the top. That part will get better. We like what we see. It’s great that he scored a goal. He allows more space for Patrick [Nyarko], [Acosta], and Lloyd [Sam] as he pushes the line.”
Another issue for Brown was his fitness levels. Towards the end of his brief tenure with the Rowdies in USL, he was only playing occasionally, mostly coming off of the bench. That meant that by the time he linked up with the Black-and-Red, he wasn’t ready to go play 90 minutes immediately, a fact that Olsen readily admitted after Brown’s 29 minute debut against Atlanta United.
In the 2-0 loss against Montreal on July 1st, Brown played 54 minutes in his first start for United. Three days later, he played 64 minutes, a sign that he was quickly getting in shape. Brown admitted that he’s not quite there yet, but is close to getting to where he wants to be to be able to help the club.
“Fitness is improving. My quickness and awareness is getting better,” said Brown. “That’s good. I’m just going to continue to work hard, until I achieve what I want for my fitness.”
Brown and company also though face a tough, uphill battle in the second half of the MLS season. They currently sit dead last in the Eastern Conference, ten points off of a playoff spot. After a promising win over the Five Stripes in Brown’s debut, United lost three in a row, all on the road. It’ll take a near miracle for United to make the playoffs with just 15 games remaining, but it’s a challenge that Brown and his teammates are willing to take head-on, despite the long odds.
“Just work hard and give it your all each day. You never know, things can change. That’s how the game of football is,” Brown said of how United can get back into the playoff race. “There’s bad patches, but then you can kick up at any time and start winning games. We have to stay focused, and stay together.”
“I know frustration will come into play, especially with the fans. I know they are not happy,” he added. “I would just say not to give up on us. We’re working hard, it’s just a few errors we need to brush up.”