With the starters returning today for a full training session, concerns continue to loom over the health of Brandon McDonald, current captain Chris Pontius and Marcelo Saragosa. Pontius was subbed out of last Sunday’s match in the 12th minute while Saragosa and McDonald exited the game in the 40th minute and 56th minute, respectively. Despite all three players’ absences from practice today, Head Coach Ben Olsen remained optimistic about McDonald and Saragosa’s recoveries. Pontius’ injury appears to be more serious, however, and is thus being monitored closely.
“We’re going to continue to evaluate them day-to-day,” said Olsen. “I think we got some promising news on two of them – the MRIs looks pretty good, but….we’ll see about Chris [Pontius]. Chris, at this point, looks a little bit more severe than the other two, but there’s still a chance he’ll be ok as well.”
While the three aforementioned players’ statuses remain unknown, United definitively knows it will be without right fullback Andy Najar on Sunday, who will serve the second game of his additional two-game suspension for his red card on November 3. Najar joined the Honduras National Team on Monday in Houston for the country’s November 14th friendly against Peru at BBVA Compass Stadium, the venue of the Black-and-Red’s recent 3-1 loss to the Dynamo.
RETURN OF DERO?
It has been almost 2.5 months since 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario has played a match with the Black-and-Red (a September 1 loss to Real Salt Lake). With injuries piling up, the desire to get DeRo back on the field has kicked into overdrive. On the Capital Soccer Show last night, CSN Houston reporter Sebastian Salazar suggested that starting De Rosario on Sunday and taking him off (versus subbing him on late) might be an advantageous tactic. At this point in the week, however, it seems as though Olsen is thinking more conservatively.
“The stamina side is different in the playoffs as opposed to a regular game, but that’s coming along,” said Olsen. “We’re not sure exactly how many minutes [De Rosario] has in him, but he certainly can score and change games, so you might be able to see him on Sunday.”
“Dwayne’s pretty gutsy, and he can fight through more than your average player…Again, if we’re in a spot where we need to get a goal late, I wouldn’t hesitate to use him.”
In whatever capacity the fans at RFK this weekend will see DeRo, what’s certain in the players’ minds is the team’s propensity to garner results at home.
“It gives us confidence, for sure,” said midfielder Perry Kitchen. “We know what we have to do, we’ve been a good team at home and we just have to continue that.”
With two goals in the last two playoff matches for the Black-and-Red, including the game-winner against New York on November 8, rookie Nick DeLeon is showing fans exactly why he is a top contender for MLS Rookie of the Year. Having already broke the D.C. United rookie regular-season scoring record (six goals), DeLeon’s two post-season tallies now bring his goals total to eight.
His teammates continue to be impressed, and 2011 Rookie of the Year finalist Perry Kitchen shared his sentiments today.
“I think he’s done great,” said Kitchen. “Had he not scored any of the two goals these last two games, I would still say he’s been playing great, so that’s a good sign.”
Olsen, the League’s Rookie of the Year in 1998, was equally effusive. He also touched upon recent successes among the team’s crop of young guns, which includes Pontius (2009 MLS Rookie of the Year finalist) and Najar (2010 MLS Rookie of the Year) in addition to Kitchen and Najar.
“It’s a good sign that we have another great young player for the future, for the foundation of this club, which is still what this is about.”