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Posted at 11:14 AM ET, 01/18/2011

Perry Kitchen has that certain je ne sais quoi

By Jeff Maurer

I don’t follow college soccer, so my reaction on draft day is usually: “Oh. Okay. Hope that works out.” But now I have a blog, so it’s important that I have an opinion about things whether I know what I’m talking about or not. So, let’s get started.

Perry Kitchen. Midfielder. Defender. National champion. Generation Adidas signing. Godsend for sports page headline writers (get ready for headlines like “Get Out of His Kitchen” and “Everything But the Kitchen Sink” when he does well, “Hell’s Kitchen” and “The Kitchen Sinks” if he does poorly). And now United’s 2011 first-round pick, third overall in the draft. Here’s what people are saying about him:

Ben Olsen, United Head Coach: “His intangibles are fantastic.” … “He’s a hard-nosed guy.” … “He’s a team guy.” … “We want guys who don’t want to lose. He seems to be that type of guy.”

Dave Kasper, United General Manager: “[Kitchen] just has things a lot of players his age, and even older, don’t have – leadership qualitites, focus, and just a big-time winner.”

Caleb Porter, University of Akron Coach and Laura Winslow to United’s Steve Urkel: “[Kitchen] is a high-end role player, and in a soccer team, you have got to have those guys who do the dirty work. The intangibles are what make him so special.”

Call me shallow, but you know what I like in a player? Tangibles. Such as the ability to be tangibly better than his opponents. The ability to score tangible goals or to tangibly prevent the other team from scoring them. Speed is tangible. Size is tangible. Touch and passing are tangible. I always worry just a bit when people talk about “grit” and “leadership” and “being a great locker room guy.” Those sometimes are the fallback talking points when there’s not much to praise about a player’s on-field performance. A loose translation of that type of vocabulary would be:

“gritty” = “slow”
“character guy” = “shows up on time/not publicly whining about his contract”
“professional” = “okay with being benched”
“does the little things well” = “does the big things poorly”
“leader” = “figurehead”
“leaves it all on the field” = “I once had an ol’ coon hound that done caught the rabies, and I knew I oughta put him down but when he’d look at me with them big black eyes I couldn’t-a do it. This player reminds me of that ol’ hound.”

On the other hand, Ben also said this: "If I had had the number one pick, I would have taken him. I can't tell you how happy we are to have this kid."

And that’s why I’m feeling good about this pick. Ives had been speculating for weeks that United were going to trade up to grab Kitchen, and some people on that site were surprised that Vancouver didn’t force United to do exactly that (Vancouver probably could have still grabbed Omar Salgado at No. 3). So, while it looked earlier this week like we might essentially trade, say, Clyde Simms (or some other consideration of real value) for Perry Kitchen, we ended up adding Kitchen without losing anything. So, all snark and Old Yeller references aside, I’m optimistic about this pick. Kitchen must have some tangibles to go along with that great character and winning attitude.

By Jeff Maurer  | January 18, 2011; 11:14 AM ET
Categories:  Jeff Maurer, United  | Tags:  D.C. United, Jeff Maurer  
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Vamos United!
Hey, we've gone from having a crap team to having multiple U-20 US National Team players, and a senior team member in Dax. The Nats are perhaps the only midfield that looks more crowded than DCU's at the moment, hence Dax's low position in that pecking order. Not a bad thing at the end of the day when you're looking for your club team to have some depth in a year that will include Gold Cup and rumored fall start to the WC Qualifying cycle for 2014...

Posted by: DadRyan | January 19, 2011 5:37 AM | Report abuse

"Caleb Porter, [...] Laura Winslow to United’s Steve Urkel"

I tip my hat to you.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | January 19, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

All credit to tangible fictional characters, we'll have to see if Kitchen can cook up something to make the first 11...

Posted by: JkR- | January 20, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Just youtube Kitchen's goal in the NCAA's against Michigan.

That's about as tangible a tangible you'll find.

Posted by: delantero | January 20, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I think he scored 6 goals for Akron, which is pretty good for a freshman d-mid in college's shorter season.

Posted by: stancollins | January 20, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

One description I've always raised an eyebrow at is "hard worker". You never want to be described in a soccer team with that moniker unless it's followed with, great touch, hard shot, ect., because "Hard Worker" = "not very talented so he's at least he works hard". :-)

Posted by: harryfuchs | January 21, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

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