Preparing the troops
As another week of training commences on the practice fields adjacent to RFK Stadium, D.C. United coach Ben Olsen is looking ahead not only to Saturday’s match against Montreal (7 pm ET), but also next Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup game in Chicago.
With United well out of playoff contention in MLS, the Open Cup match has been awarded added emphasis by D.C.’s players and coaches and Olsen’s juggling act – who’s fit, who’s in form, which of the new pieces gives his club the best chance to advance to the final? – begins now.
“Right now it’s about preparing for Montreal and trying to get a winning mentality that will kind of roll into that important game on Wednesday against Chicago,” Olsen said after Tuesday’s session. “[It’s] a little bit of a balancing act on players and how I get everybody in rhythm and physically ready to go on Wednesday with the weekend game. That’s part of what we’re figuring out now.”
There are plenty of pieces for Olsen to manage as Luis Silva, Jared Jeffery, Conor Doyle and Collin Martin all weren’t on the first team for United’s previous Open Cup match against New England. Toss in nagging injuries that have led to sparse playing time for Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius as well as recent injuries to Carlos Ruiz (groin) and Casey Townsend (foot) and there’s plenty of intrigue leading up to Saturday’s match. Perry Kitchen (hip) missed his first match last weekend – snapping a string of 51 consecutive starts – but trained fully on Tuesday.
“I’m feeling just day-to-day aches, but feeling pretty good,” Kitchen said. “It was different, but it’s nice to see a game from up high, see how the movement and stuff works. Just a different point of view, but I’m anxious to get back.”
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid also returned Tuesday from his time with the U.S. men’s national team, but was given the day off by Olsen. Joe Willis has started four matches in Hamid’s place.
“I gave [Hamid] a day to stay at home today and relax. I’ve been through those Gold Cups. It’s a long time, it’s a lot of travel, it’s intense, so he’s earned a day off and he’ll see us tomorrow,” Olsen said. “He hasn’t had a lot of games. He’s been doing a lot of watching, unfortunately. He’ll come back and we’ll see what he has. We’ll see how sharp he is and we’ll evaluate it this week and for the weekend and we’ll go from there.”