After a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls at RFK Stadium this past Saturday, D.C. United took to the training field for a regeneration session ahead of Wednesday’s second leg at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network).
An Andy Najar double yellow card in the 71st minute of the first leg has ensured Najar’s absence in the second leg of the series, forcing Head Coach Ben Olsen to slot another option into the starting XI on Wednesday.
The nineteen-year-old, 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year and United’s second-ever Homegrown Player to join the senior squad, has proven to be an offensive catalyst from the right fullback position. Up through Saturday, he had been inserted into the starting lineup in 13 of the past 14 matches.
As to how that might affect the Black-and-Red’s shape and attack, defender Chris Korb said: “We’ve been [making adjustments to the backline] all year, so it’s nothing new, that’s kind of the nice thing. We’ve been switching it up – the last 10 games or so, we’ve had the same unit, but I think whoever we plug in, I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat.”
WOOLARD FEELING FULLY FIT
After starting 20 of the first 21 games of the season, defender Daniel Woolard suffered a concussion in August 4th's 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew and has not been in an 18-man roster since. A presence on the practice pitch for a few weeks running, he shared today that he feels 90-minute ready and is hopeful about playing against New York on Wednesday.
“Just getting back on the training field has been really nice and a relief, so it would be great to get minutes, but it’s just really nice to be back with the guys in training and feeling good,” said Woolard. “My body’s feeling good.”
With Najar eliminated as roster selection, there is space for someone on the mend to step in. And especially at this point in the campaign, the team feels that the depth is there.
“We’re really healthy right now,” said Woolard. “We got a lot of guys coming back from injury – he’s [Olsen] got a lot of options, so I think it’s good for the team. A lot of guys are ready to step up and get a result.”
ALL FOR ONE, ONE FOR ALL
A point of emphasis today, and for the past couple of months, has been the way that the squad has collectively come together to accrue favorable results. United is unbeaten in its last eight matches since captain Dwayne De Rosario went down to injury, with 10 different players contributing to the club’s 11 goals scored in that stretch.
“This group continues to surprise me all the time,” said defender Robbie Russell. “They are a team in every aspect of the word. On any given day, someone steps up big for us.“
“So, you know, guys on the bench come in and put in some great minutes. Guys on the field consistently – every single person on every single part of the field has done something amazing at some point. It’s something that has gotten us this far, and hopefully it can get us farther.”