Danny Cruz of D.C. United suffers ankle injuries in preseason win over Charleston Battery

February 29, 2012

Midfielder Danny Cruz suffered a suspected fracture to his right ankle during D.C. United’s penultimate preseason match Wednesday, a 3-1 victory over the third-division Charleston Battery.

He injured his left ankle in the first half but was able to continue. But in the 76th minute, Charleston defender Mark Wiltse slid into Cruz with force along the sideline and was red-carded.

“It’s a terrible tackle,” United Coach Ben Olsen fumed in the hallway between the teams’ locker rooms. “It drives me up a wall. It was a stupid tackle.”

After the game, United medical personnel carried Cruz into the locker room, each ankle wrapped in ice. He was scheduled to have X-rays on both later in the night. Club officials said they weren’t optimistic about the diagnosis.

Cruz, 22, was acquired from the Houston Dynamo during the offseason to provide depth on the flanks. United projected him to play regularly and probably start on the right wing when Andy Najar is with the Honduran under-23 national team this spring and possibly at the Olympics in the summer.

The injury cast a pall over a decent performance by United, which clinched the Carolina Challenge Cup title for the third consecutive year. United (2-0) will complete the ninth annual preseason tournament Saturday against the Columbus Crew (0-1-1).

Forwards Maicon Santos and Ryan Richter scored in the first half, and new signing Hamdi Salihi scored in the 88th minute, his second goal in two matches.

Richter was among three trialists hoping to prove their value before final roster decisions this weekend. The presumptive opening-day tandem in central defense, Emiliano Dudar and Brandon McDonald, was in place in the first half.

Central midfielder Branko Boskovic continued to make strides after missing most of last season with a knee ligament injury. Boskovic assisted on the opening goal in front of 2,634 at Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island.

“I’m happy because I had no problems, and the next game I will be physically better,” he said. “I need more practice, more games like this to feel more comfortable.”

United went ahead in the 13th minute when Boskovic pushed a ball to Santos in stride for a blistering shot that flashed past goalkeeper Kevin Klasila.

The Battery equalized in the 29th when Wiltse crossed to Jose Cuevas for a six-yard header. Two minutes later, United regained the lead when left back Jose Burciaga Jr. crossed to Richter at the back post for a short header that Klasila failed to parry away.

Salihi’s goal capped a sharp, one-touch combination between Josh Wolff and Najar.

Richter, a former Philadelphia Union prospect, joined two other trialists in the starting lineup: defensive midfielder Lance Rozeboom, a supplemental draft pick from New Mexico, and Burciaga, 30, who is attempting to revive his career since leaving MLS four years ago.

The other trialists, former Georgetown midfielder Seth C’deBaca and Brazilian left back Guilherme, didn’t play. Olsen rested 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario (minor groin ailment).

Goalkeeper Bill Hamid and defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen will join the club for Saturday’s finale after serving U.S. under-23 duty for 10 days.

“The first half, we made it a lot more complicated than it needed to be,” Olsen said. “When we learn that the ball just has to move quicker and you have options and you need to simplify the game, we’ll be okay.”

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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