Here’s what to keep an eye on Friday as a trio of D.C. United players represent their respective national teams in World Cup Qualifying:
Hamdi Salihi (Albania – Cyprus - 2:30)
Despite battling a strained right hamstring, Salihi was named to Giovanni De Biasi’s starting eleven for this critical qualifying fixture. Three points at home against Cyprus are a must if the Albanians are to make any serious run at qualifying from a group that also features Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland and Iceland. Following Friday’s match, Salihi and his teammates will travel to Switzerland on September 11. Follow updates on FIFA.com
Dwayne De Rosario (Canada vs Panama - 7:30 p.m.)
After starting - and playing all ninety minutes - in each of Canada’s two most recent qualifiers, Dwayne De Rosario figures to be a big part of head coach Stephen Hart’s plans when Les Rouges face Panama at Toronto’s BMO Field. DeRo always seems to save his best performances for the biggest games, and after fellow MLS-er Patrice Bernier called the Panama match a ‘must-win’, Friday looks like an ideal time for a vintage De Rosario effort. Should D.C.’s captain score against the Panamanians, he would pass Dale Mitchell as Canada’s all-time leading scorer.
Dejan Jakovic (Canada vs Panama – 7:30)
With Jakovic in a reserve role, Canada’s defense played extremely well in consecutive qualifying shutouts of Cuba and Honduras earlier this summer. As a result, D.C.’s second entry on Les Rouges isn’t projected to appear in Friday’s critical qualifier. Hart told reporters this week that there is ‘a certain security and comfort’ with his current back four of David Edgar, Andre Hainault, Ante Jazic and Kevin McKenna. Jakovic has proven himself capable of coming off the bench in a pinch – as he did expertly in a D.C. win over Toronto on May 19 – and would be a solid option in case of injury.