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April 9, 2012 at 2:23 PM

Marc Burch recalls memorable return to D.C.

burch mug 2012.jpgSo how often has Marc Burch relived that header? That shot in the last minute of stoppage time Saturday — just moments after he had subbed into Sounders FC’s road game at D.C. United — that nearly won the game against his former team?

“A lot,” a smiling Burch said after practice Monday. “My friends in D.C. let me hear about it a little bit — the excitement they would’ve felt, and disappointment at the same time.”

The Seattle defender/midfielder said the ball popped up on him quicker than he expected as Osvaldo Alonso‘s long-range shot was saved in his direction by goalkeeper Joe Willis.

For outsiders, his role off the bench came as more of the surprise.

Burch had started the team’s first three MLS game this season and, after making some pointed comments about how his relationship with D.C. United ended, his return to RFK Stadium was much anticipated.

Turns out coach Sigi Schmid had told Burch earlier in the week that he wouldn’t be starting. Schmid felt Leo Gonzalez was a better defensive matchup against Danny Cruz — or Andy Najar, had he been available.

On Monday, Burch indicated those midweek comments might have been a bit about gamesmanship.

“It’s just part of the game, when you don’t want the other team to know who’s starting and who’s playing,” he said. “I talked to some of their guys and they were planning on me playing. It kind of surprised them — maybe it threw a little shock into their game. You hear early (about not starting) and then you just play it off.”

Both player and coach said the mini-controversy didn’t factor into his benching.

And Burch would actually play in the end.

Schmid wanted to keep some size on the field in a late-game sub for Alvaro Fernandez. The coach felt the 6-foot-1 Burch could better defend set pieces than, say, an Alex Caskey. A header in the penalty box did in fact come to him, but it was on the other end of the field.

Burch said he didn’t have a celebration planned, particularly because he didn’t plan on playing.

“But if I thought about it, I probably would’ve gone over (to the D.C. fans) and given it to them back a little bit,” he said with a laugh.

Upon subbing into the game, Burch was soundly booed by the home crowd. He called the reception “awesome.”

“I was pretty happy with how they responded,” he said. “I figure you just have a little fun with them. And I talked to some of the big-time fans; they all know how much I love them and how much I appreciate what they’ve done. And they really appreciate what I’ve done.

“I told them it’s just fun and games, and I was excited to play there, excited to go back and I appreciate them all having that passion towards me. It gave me a little bit of energy, gave me a little bit of a run and I wish I had put that away. It would’ve been a really nice one.”

So how did the interactions with former teammates go after the game?

“With (Chris Pontius), he said he didn’t think he’d ever play again if I would’ve scored, because I was his man,” Burch said. “He was mad at me. But they all know I can still play. They would’ve been so happy for me in a couple weeks if I had scored that — that night they wouldn’t have.

“Those are my friends. Those are the guys I’ve been with for a while. It was great to see them, even (coach Ben Olsen). He’s fun to joke around with. I told him if I scored I was going to pick him up and celebrate with him, and he said he’d punch me in the throat. It’s all fun. I love those guys.”

So what’s next? Burch has eyes on winning his starting job back. That will start in a MLS Reserve League game Tuesday night against rival Portland.

“I want to play. I always want to be on the field,” Burch said. “It’s the coach’s decision. … We’ve got a game tomorrow night where I can prove that I can be back in there and make his decision tough.”


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