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Thursday notes

24 May 3:57 pm

Thursday notes

By Sebastian Salazar

Chris Pontius hopes to return to action Saturday against New England

With temperatures approaching 80 degrees and few clouds in the sky, D.C. United endured one of their hottest training sessions of the year on Thursday.  Here are a few notes from practice: 

PONTIUS EYES RETURN

After ripping off five goals during a six-match stretch through late April and early May, Chris Pontius took a spell on the club's injury list.  The victim of a strain in his gluteus medius, the club’s second-leading scorer was an unused substitute in each of United’s last two matches.

With temperatures approaching 80 degrees and few clouds inthe sky, D.C. United endured one of their hottest training sessions of the yearon Thursday.  Here are a few notesfrom practice: 

PONTIUS EYES RETURN

After ripping off five goals during a six-match stretchthrough late April and early May, Chris Pontius took a spell on the club's injury list.  The victim of a strain in his gluteus medius, the club’ssecond-leading scorer was an unused substitute in each of United’s last twomatches.

With Pontius sidelined, D.C.’s attack remained potent asDwayne De Rosario and Hamdi Salihi combined for five goals.  The Californian wasn’t happy to misstime, but says the resulting diversity in United’s attack could pay dividendsdown the road.

“We’ve done extremely well,” said Pontius.  “We’ve had so many lineups and every game someone hasstepped up.  It’s hard to defend usas a team and that’s obviously going to make us better throughout the season.”

HEATING UP

Among the casualties of United’s loaded early schedule havebeen Ben Olsen’s training sessions. Of the last five weeks on the calendar, three have seen D.C. playmidweek matches.  That has cut downdrastically on the amount of actual training that can occur as the Black-and-Red scrambledto prepare for games with minimal build-up.

That hasn’t been the case this week, as D.C. are finally enjoying a full week of practice.  The sessions have been both intense and fast-paced, andfollowing Thursday’s training Olsen spoke about his approach.

“We’ve had a week of training, which he haven’t had in awhile,” acknowledged United’s second-year coach.  “When you have a full week it’s important to - at some point - really push the guys and make sure they are getting something out of theweek.  But it has been a finebalance because there’s been a lot of guys nicked up and we need to rest them aswell.”

EYE ON LIBERTADORES

Emiliano Dudar trained fully on Thursday and appears to berecovered from the hamstring strain that has kept him out since coming off injuredin D.C.’s 3-2 win over Houston on April 28.  United’s defense has conceded just two goals over its lastfour matches, but could certainly benefit from the veteran Argentine’scommanding aerial presence and distribution skills out of the back.

But as Dudar was preparing to head home for the afternoon,all he wanted to talk about was Thursday’s impending Copa Libertadores clashbetween Argentina’s Velez Sarsfield and Brazilian giants Santos.  Velez is Dudar’s original club, forwhom he made 63 appearances over three years between 2000 and 2003.  Velez won the first leg of thequarterfinal match-up 1-0 in Argentina.

“I always read the reports from Brazil and I think theBrazilians are very confident that they will win the game,” Dudar said, tradinghis player hat for that of an analyst… or fan.  “But from my point of view, Velez will play a very smartmatch and they can even win [in Brazil]. Either way, Velez will surely advance because they have a superior side.”