Olsen: DCU moving in the right direction, DeRo finally showing physicality
D.C United is feeling better, but that doesn’t mean the Black and Red is healthy. A confidence restoring 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in the U.S. Open Cup did not come without a price. United is again dealing with injury woes for its Saturday home encounter against Toronto FC.
“There’s a silent confidence about us that we can get out of this thing and now’s the time,” United head coach Ben Olsen said after Wednesday’s Cup win. We’re banged up, we put a lot into this game, so we’re going to have to piecemeal something together for the weekend and try and draw on our resolve against Toronto.”
Injuries have cost midfielder Chris Pontius to miss three games this season and he will miss another on Saturday against Toronto because of a concussion suffered against the Union. Pontius had been paired with Carlos Ruiz at forward in two of the last three matches Ruiz is in Guatemala for a testimonial game against Argentina to honor his retirement from international football.
Olsen will need a new strike pairing against Toronto and the return of Dwayne De Rosario to the first eleven seems to be a natural solution. De Rosario’s 2013 season has been hampered by suspension and injury, but he provided all three goals in the win over the Union. It was an amazing tonic for a team that only scored multiple goals in the same game once in its previous 15 games in all competitions.
“The guy’s a winner,” Olsen said of De Rosario. “He’s been through a lot, I’ve been through a lot, and he responded the way you expect a guy like Dwayne to respond. So that’s a positive sign.
In the Open Cup against Philadelphia Casey Townsend started with De Rosario at forward. Townsend has appeared in three league matches with two starts and is a possible option to join De Rosario in the attack along. Lionard Pajoy, still United’s leading scorer with 2 goals, is another option. Regardless of whom De Rosario plays behind in attack, the return of John Thorington to full health from a knee injury is critical.
“Our rhythm was better,” explained Olsen after the three-goal outburst against Philadelphia. “ JT [John Thorrington] helped enormously. He’s a key threat and a guy we’ve been waiting for, that type of midfielder is what we’ve been missing all year, so hopefully we can continue to keep him healthy and keep him on the field.”
“I think JT [John Thorrington] and the other guys did a fantastic job of holding down the middle, giving me balls and releasing me into places where I’m dangerous,” added De Rosario. “The wingers did a great job of stretching them, and I was able to get some good balls to the top of the 18, and get some good lay-offs for others to run onto.”
The connection on offense has been the concern for United with only 6 goals from 14 league matches. A surge from De Rosario and a jump-start to Nick De Leon’s sophomore campaign could help provide the needed offensive answers. Sainey Nyassi has the ability to unlock defenses with his speed and might be called on with Kyle Porter nursing a calf injury.
While United hopes and waits for its offense to arrive in league play, it must continue the positive trend on defense. The 0-0 draw last week in New England in many ways felt like a victory for a team that has spent most of the season chasing the game after conceding goals early in matches.
"I think we’re just tuning in as a unit,” said goalkeeper Bill Hamid. “As long as you stay tuned in for the whole game you won’t give up any silly goals or make any silly mistakes. There’s still stuff to work on – we know that and we’re very aware of that
The defensive maturity of United will be tested as the continuity that was starting to develop at the back will be disrupted. Both Ethan White and James Riley will miss Saturday’s match with injuries and Dejan Jakovic is not fully fit. The game likely will mark the United debut of Alain Rochat. Acquired in a trade with Vancouver, Rochat can add to United’s offensive dynamic if he plays left back and goes forward.
It will be like old home week with Toronto in town. The Reds are now run by former United founder and President Kevin Payne and coached by former United defender Ryan Nelsen. Toronto is only on 8 points from 13 matches, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story for a side desperately trying to go forward.
The addition of forward Robert Earnshaw after a lengthy European career has been a plus. Earnshaw has delivered 5 goals in 13 appearances and former United midfielder Bobby Convey has been added from Sporting Kansas City. The issue has been on defense where in five games, Toronto has given up a goal in the 89th minute or later.
The incredible run of late game collapses has dramatically altered Toronto’s season. In four games a goal after the 89th forced Toronto to settle for a tie instead of a victory and three points. In one game Toronto suffered a defeat and a loss of one point. In short there are 9 points that easily could have been in Toronto’s account.
D.C. United and Toronto are two teams that want to believe the worst is behind them. Saturday might provide an indication.