Chris Odoi-Atsem: D.C. United has recently re-signed defender Chris Odoi-Atsem through 2022. (Courtesy Photo)

By Daniel Kucin Jr.
Special to the AFRO

MLS gears up for season

Major League Soccer (MLS) announced on Jan. 25 that the 2021 regular season is slated to begin on April 3, featuring 34 matches from 27 clubs, and the preseason will start on Feb. 22.

D.C. United will represent the Eastern Conference in the league’s 26th season, and COVID-19 testing protocols will again play an essential role in the MLS competition structure.

MLS noted that they continue to work closely with the league and MLS Players Association’s infectious disease advisors on health and safety protocols, including testing.

Players will be required to quarantine and have individual training when reporting back to their respective clubs during the course of the season.

In other news, United has re-signed defender Chris Odoi-Atsem through 2022 and midfielder Felipe Martins through 2021.

Odoi-Atsem appeared in 15 games last season, totaled 769 minutes, and scored his first goal on a 78th-minute game-winner in the 2-1 victory against FC Cincinnati on Oct. 18, 2020.

Martins played in 16 games for United last season and recorded three assists.

Wizards snap losing skid

The Washington Wizards came away with a 149-146 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 31 after suffering a four-game losing streak.

Wizards point guard Russell Westbrook had a herculean performance, leading the team in scoring (41), rebounds (10) and assists (8), while guard Bradley Beal poured in 37 points.

“Leadership shows out when you win,” Westbrook said about his role on this team. “Guys feel better about themselves and are confident about their game, and that’s what I look for … I feel like I’m put into this position for a reason. Tonight we played at a high level and now we gotta get ready for the next one.”

Washington had six players score in double-figures, and though they are still in last place in the Eastern Conference (as of Feb. 1), the victory hopes to put the Wizards in the right direction.

“I wanted to enjoy it, hey this is a good feeling,” said Washington Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks after the win. “We fought, we fought hard, and we had nothing right going for us in that first quarter other than we are going to keep competing. We’ve done it all year, but the basketball gods gave us a break tonight.”

Nationals acquire Hand, Lester

The Washington Nationals have upgraded their pitching rotation after announcing that they have agreed to terms with pitchers Brad Hand and Jon Lester on one-year deals.

Hand, 30, led the majors in saves (16) in 2020, playing for the Cleveland Indians. Since 2017, Hand has an ERA of 2.61, 323 strikeouts and 103 saves.

“Just a good group of guys with the starting rotation that they have there in Washington and the guys that they got down in the bullpen, I thought that would be a good fit for me,” Hand said.

The Washington Nationals announced on Jan. 27 that they have agreed to terms to bring in former three-time World Series champion pitcher Jon Lester.

The five-time all-star played six seasons for the Chicago Cubs, going 77-44 with an ERA of 3.64 in 171 starts. The 37-year-old still has gas left in the tank, starting 55 games and pitching for at least six innings a game since 2016.