This was definitely not the week for an injury outbreak to strike D.C. United’s defensive corps. But with two home matches approaching, Coach Ben Olsen looks as if he will have to scramble to assemble a backline.
Center backs Emiliano Dudar (hamstring) and Dejan Jakovic (ankle) are nursing ailments ahead of Wednesday's game against the Montreal Impact at RFK Stadium. Dudar didn’t play in Saturday’s 2-1 victory at New England and Jakovic left the match in the second half.
Right back Robbie Russell slid inside and partnered with center back Brandon McDonald the remainder of the match.
The club was awaiting results of Jakovic’s MRI exam Monday.
Dudar “went through a little bit of training,” Olsen said. “He’s progressing pretty quickly, but we still have to do what’s right and be smart” in regard to Sunday’s match against the visiting New York Red Bulls.
Olsen said he would be comfortable starting Russell in the middle. “He played there for Salt Lake at times [before being traded to United this past offseason]. He’s always an option in there.”
Left back Daniel Woolard and defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen are in the mix to play in the middle, as well. However, center back Ethan White is still a few weeks from returning from knee surgery.
“We always have cover in that spot,” Olsen added. “We’ll have to evaluate everyone tomorrow and make some decisions.”
If Woolard or Russell plays in the middle, Chris Korb would become the top candidate to step in. Kitchen’s relocation would present complications because his back-up, Marcelo Saragosa, returned to Brazil for his father’s funeral. Kitchen played center back for the U.S. under-23 national team in the failed Olympic qualifying bid.
Stephen King is an option in defensive midfield.
“We’re just trying to get some bodies rested up and ready, and see what we have tomorrow,” Olsen said.
Meantime, Olsen wouldn’t say whether Bill Hamid, the first-choice goalkeeper since last year, will return to the lineup Wednesday. Hamid hasn’t played since the opener because of Olympic qualifying duty and an ankle injury. In his absence, Joe Willis has performed well.
“Joe had another good game,” Olsen said, “but I have a lot of faith in Bill.”
With the club in a congested stretch of the schedule, Hamid’s return Wednesday wouldn’t come as a surprise. It would then add intrigue to Sunday’s choice against the Red Bulls.
Speaking in general about lineup options, Olsen added: “It’s a balance, right? You can bring fresh guys in, but you also have a team that has been doing pretty well and getting some results. We’ll find the right balance.”
One player who hasn’t bolstered his cause for playing time is high-priced striker Hamdi Salihi, who has yet to score in five appearances and looked out of sorts Saturday.
“He’s pushing it a little bit,” Olsen said. “As a striker, you go through these stretches where you are not scoring. You are looking to score so bad, it makes it even more difficult. I think he is in that spot. He just needs to relax and do what he does best. He will be fine.”
In the short term, however, Chris Pontius, who scored the go-ahead goal in the 82nd minute against the Revolution, is a prime candidate to make his first start in a month alongside Maicon Santos (three goals).
United players on loan: Third-choice keeper Andrew Dykstra played 90 minutes in the third-tier Charleston Battery’s 2-1 loss to the Richmond Kickers. Midfielder-defender Conor Shanosky went 90 in the second-flight Fort Lauderdale Strikers’ 0-0 draw with FC Edmonton.
Jersey exchange: Pontius got former teammate Clyde Simms’s No. 19 shirt after the match Saturday.