Ben Olsen altered D.C. United’s starting lineup after the season opener for tactical reasons. He will tweak it again this Saturday afternoon against New York at Red Bull Arena out of necessity and because he has another important option available.
John Thorrington is out after two starts, sidelined with a knee injury. Dwayne De Rosario is in after serving a two-game league suspension. At least, we assume he is in.
Olsen played coy after Thursday’s training session.
“You think I am going to start DeRo?” he said, tongue firmly placed in cheek. “After missing two games, start him?”
You think he gets in the 18?
“We’ll see if he gets in the 18.”
Marcelo Saragosa is expected to replace Thorrington (sprained ligament, out 2-3 months) in central midfield. De Rosario’s return would probably send Marcos Sanchez back to the bench. With DeRo partnering upfront with Lionard Pajoy, Chris Pontius would start on the left wing after splitting time on the frontline and in midfield last weekend.
*MLS suspended Real Salt Lake defender Abdoulie Mansally for one match and fined him an undisclosed amount for headbutting United’s Perry Kitchen on the chest at RFK Stadium last Saturday night. De Rosario received a two-game ban for a headbutt in the preseason finale, but he made contact with Danny Cruz‘s face — a more dangerous act. Some in United’s locker room thought Mansally should have gotten two games as well, but Olsen agreed with MLS’s lesser penalty, citing the chest-head difference.
*Center back Dejan Jakovic was officially recalled by the Canadian national team for friendlies against Japan on March 22 and Belarus three days later. Both matches will take place in Qatar, requiring Jakovic to endure a long day of travel (via Frankfurt). He will miss United’s home match against the Columbus Crew next weekend. The friendlies fall inside a FIFA international fixture window, which mandates clubs to release requested players. (MLS’s decision to continue scheduling league matches during FIFA periods remains puzzling.)
United will also be without Sanchez, who will report to Panama’s national team for a pair of World Cup qualifiers. Pontius and goalkeeper Bill Hamid are in the U.S. player pool ahead of two qualifiers, but both appear to be on the outer edge of this roster call-up. Juergen Klinsmann will not name his squad until Sunday or Monday.
*Reminder: NBC — the main network channel, not NBC Sports Network — will carry Saturday’s match against the Red Bulls, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET. In New York, however, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will preempt the match. Fans in the New York area will find it on NBC Sports Network and NBCSports.com. [Details here.]
*United’s visit to New Jersey won’t come with the same weather drama as last year’s playoffs, when snow forced a one-day postponement. But the conditions promise to be closer to winter than spring. The latest forecast for Harrison: rain and snow showers late Friday night and Saturday morning, with a chance of flurries at kickoff and a temperature in the upper thirties.