It may not have looked much like anything that’ll be seen on an outdoor field once the MLS season starts in March, but D.C. United officially got its 2011 preseason underway this morning with an energetic session inside the Greenbelt SportsPlex, a practice in which two of the team’s prized rookie signings both took their lumps.

No. 3 overall draft pick Perry Kitchen finished the day with cotton sticking out of his nose after he took a ball to the face that turned his entire face red and sent him to the sideline to get treatment. Homegrown signing from Maryland Ethan White also was sitting on the side with a sore right leg.

At the other end of the spectrum, Chris Pontius took part in his first practice with the ball since undergoing hamstring surgery last fall. Bill Hamid (shoulder surgery) was working with the goalkeepers. Jed Zayner said he’s back to a hundred percent after his ankle injury at the end of the year, while Brandon Barklage (knee), Marc Burch (foot) and Clyde Simms (sports hernia surgery) were also participants.

The one guy that wasn’t in attendance, of course, was Jaime Moreno, but I had to look twice after a quick first glance at Rodrigo Brasesco made me think the Bolivian was surprisingly back in the fray. Alas, no.

“It’s a little strange not seeing Jaime around because I’ve seen him at basically every practice I’ve ever been here,” said Ben Olsen, who ruled over his first practice as non-interim head coach. “I miss him, and you don’t not miss a guy that’s done so much for this club. Saying that, I talk about new chapter in D.C. United, and the guys have to realize that there’s a void now, and it’s their job to figure out if they want to be a leader on this team, figure out if they want to be the type of guy that helps this team win championships.”

Olsen also played down the choice of team captain.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it,” he said. “Guys are going to play, and we’ll use different guys. I hope we have more than one leader on this team. We have a bunch of guys that collectively, as a group, know what to do, and we don’t have to have one guy, that’s my hope right now. I don’t think that’s necessary. We’re trying to build our team right now and be together. I don’t think we need to single anybody out at this point, and that’s we’ll see how this thing evolves.”

Other Absentees included Dax McCarty, who just finished three weeks with the U.S. national team and was arguably the U.S. team’s best player in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Chile. He’s been given a couple days to recuperate but could join the team later this week. Joseph Ngwenya is apparently having moving issues getting back to the U.S. from his native Zimbabwe.

Chinese forward Men Yang, who had a trial with D.C. last fall, will join the team when it gets to Fort Lauderdale next week, but as to United’s pursuit of a presumably foreign forward, Olsen had this to say: “Does it have to be a foreigner? We’re looking for a forward. I don’t think it’s any surprise to anybody, but I’ve always said, I’m happy with what we have. But if you can bolster that area, it’s always nice to do, to get another guy that’s competing to score goals because that’s obviously a place that we’ve felt we weren’t good enough and we need to fix it.”

Olsen, who ruled out any other trialists beyond Yang and the others already in camp, was in good spirits after the birth of his second child last week, son Oscar Benjamin. Zayner also had a child in the offseason, his first, Joah Jedidiah.

“Sleep deprivation is – I would sell secrets to the Russians very quick if they made me stay up, not even more than 24 hours,” said Olsen. “Yep, here it is, you can have it. I realize I need sleep. My wife makes fun of me, I’m nothing compared to her.”

United will alternate between Greenbelt and the weight room the remainder of this week before taking off for Florida. The full schedule:

January 24 - January 28:  Training in Washington, DC
January 31 - February 12:  Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
February 16 - February 26: Ventura, Calif.
February 19: Match vs. Ventura County Fusion
March 1 - March 2: Training in Washington, DC
March 3 – March 12: Charleston, SC
Saturday, March 5:  vs. Charleston Battery (7:15 p.m.)
Wednesday, March 9:  vs. Chicago Fire (5:00 p.m.)
Saturday, March 12: vs. Toronto FC (5:00 p.m.)
March 14 - March 18: Training in Washington, DC
March 19:  Season-opening home match versus Columbus Crew (7:30 p.m.)