D.C. United news & notes

November 2, 2012

Dwayne De Rosario has been upgraded to questionable on D.C. United’s injury report, increasing the likelihood he will play in the MLS’s Eastern Conference finals — should the club defeat the New York Red Bulls in a two-leg series that begins Saturday night at RFK Stadium.

De Rosario missed the last seven regular season matches with a sprained knee and wasn’t expected to be available until late November. But he has been making steady progress in rehabilitation, began sprinting last week and, to the surprise of Coach Ben Olsen, jumped into normal training activities Friday morning.

“I didn’t even know he was in training and I saw him playing,” Olsen said with a grin. “Dwayne told me he is ready to go.”

He is not ready to go, but he is getting closer. Lateral movement is the biggest issue with the type of injury he suffered.

*Midfielder Lewis Neal has recovered from a calf strain and is available, he said. Olsen seems likely to include him on the 18-man match roster but retain the midfield lineup from last Saturday’s regular season finale at Chicago: Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon on the flanks, Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa in deep central roles and Branko Boskovic conducting the attack.

*Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill might miss the series opener with a calf injury. “We will just have to make a late decision,” Coach Hans Backe said.

*For all the outrage about United losing “home-field advantage” because of the stadium change, consider this: Only seven of 36 two-leg MLS playoff series since 2003 have been decided by extra time/penalty kicks and three were won by the visiting club.

*Pontius had a special guest at his apartment to watch the Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps playoff late Thursday night: Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty, his former DCU teammate. New York arrived in Washington on Thursday and practiced at the RFK training grounds Friday afternoon.

Any trash-talk?

“I don’t think there is a conversation that goes on even when we are not playing each other that isn’t trash-talk,” Pontius said. “That’s just the way we are. Once we step on the field, it’s all business.”

As an early Christmas gift, Pontius bought plane tickets for his parents to fly east from Southern California for United’s first playoff match in five years. One problem: The flight was going to the New York area, where the opener was supposed to take place this weekend. It was too expensive to make changes, so his parents planned to fly to New York, rent a car and drive to Washington today.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff · November 1, 2012