D.C. United’s regular season match Saturday night doesn’t mean much of anything for the lowly home side. D.C. United’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal Wednesday at Chicago means everything — the last glimmer of light in a dark campaign.
Conventional wisdom suggests a secondary lineup against the Montreal Impact at RFK Stadium. However, players returning from recent layoffs, such as Dwayne De Rosario, need playing time. And others can’t afford to go 11 days without a competitive match.
What to do?
“Do I prioritize Wednesday’s game over this game? Yes,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “But this game is a lead-up. I can’t afford to sit my ‘starting team’ this weekend. We need rhythm. We need to get a winning mentality. DeRo needs minutes. [Nick] DeLeon needs to keep pushing. Perry [Kitchen] needs to get back.
“There are two thought processes: Rest everybody and make sure you have everybody or ‘Let’s get some rhythm, let’s get guys in the right form so we can be playing at our best at Chicago.’ ”
Olsen cited the gap between matches — three days for a Saturday-Wednesday combination rather than two for a Wednesday-Saturday schedule — as a factor in playing some regulars.
“That extra day is everything. For those guys that do play, I see no problem with them rebounding and being 100 percent to go for Wednesday.”
*Goalkeeper Bill Hamid returned to United training Thursday after a month with the U.S. national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
As Juergen Klinsmann‘s No. 3 choice, he did not appear in any matches — inactivity that, Olsen said, will not factor in the lineup decision Saturday: Hamid or Joe Willis.
“We have a huge amount faith in [Hamid] and we’ll get him back in,” Olsen said. “He is ready to go. Joe is ready to go. We have a goalkeeper competition. I wish we had that type of competition everywhere on the field.”
Hamid’s takeaway from the U.S. adventure?
“The positivity, the joy of football and the atmosphere — how exciting it is, how motivating it is, how to win a trophy,” he said.
Hamid worked with three goalkeeping coaches during the national team spell, including retired legend Kasey Keller. “It was an amazing experience. Kasey opened the door for us young guys who want to make it. He paved the way for American goalkeepers to be able to say we are top five in the world in goalkeepers in terms of how we breed goalkeepers.”
*Chris Pontius, Lionard Pajoy, Lewis Neal and Marcelo Saragosa are sidelined with injuries or rehab routines, while Casey Townsend and Carlos Ruiz are ailing and unlikely to play.
*Defender Conor Shanosky and goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra are on assignment with the Richmond Kickers, United’s undefeated third-division affiliate, for USL matches at Charlotte tonight and Charleston on Saturday. Forward Michael Seaton remained in Washington to rehab a hip injury.
Because of United’s injury situation, new homegrown signing Collin Martin, 18, stayed in Washington instead of reporting to the Kickers and is slated to feature on the game-day roster at RFK.
The 18-man list will probably look like this:
GKs Hamid, Willis.
Ds Riley, Jakovic, White, Woolard, Korb, Kemp.
MFs Thorrington, Silva, DeLeon, Porter, Kitchen, Jeffrey, Nyassi, Martin.
Fs De Rosario, Doyle.
*Saturday’s kickoff was bumped back 30 minutes to 7:30 for a unique national TV reason: While Comcast SportsNet will carry the game locally, NBC Sports Network will incorporate portions of the second half into “MLS Breakaway”, live break-ins to five matches with staggered starting times. The 90-minute show begins at 9 p.m. [Complete weekend TV and live stream listings]