A hamstring and a pair of hurricanes have left D.C. United a little short-handed today at RFK Stadium.
Midfielder Earnie Stewart is not expected to play against the Dallas Burn after straining his left hamstring in practice on Tuesday. Stewart, who scored in last week's 3-1 loss at Chicago, jogged lightly around the field yesterday while the rest of the club worked out.
_____United vs. Burn_____
Where: RFK Stadium.
When: 4 p.m.
Radio: WMET-1160, WACA-1540 (Spanish), WYSK-1350 (Spanish), WPWC-1480 (Spanish).
Records: United 6-9-9, Burn 9-10-5.
D.C. Probable Starters (3-5-2 formation): GK Troy Perkins; Ds Bryan Namoff, Ryan Nelsen, Mike Petke; MFs Freddy Adu, Dema Kovalenko, Ben Olsen, Christian Gomez, Josh Gros; Fs Jaime Moreno, Alecko Eskandarian.
Dallas Probable Starters (4-4-2): GK Jeff Cassar; Ds Carey Talley, Cory Gibbs, Steve Jolley, Chris Gbandi; MFs Ronnie O'Brien, Simi Valakari, Oscar Pareja, Eric Quill; Fs Toni Nhleko, Eddie Johnson.
"He's not healthy, he still feels it," Coach Peter Nowak said. "It doesn't look good for this weekend."
Meantime, defender Ezra Hendrickson has had to remain in the storm-ravaged Caribbean longer than anticipated because of hurricanes Frances and Ivan.
Hendrickson, captain of the St. Vincent and Grenadines national team, was supposed to travel with his countrymen to Mexico for a 2006 World Cup qualifier last Saturday, but Frances grounded them. The team was then scheduled to host a qualifier against St. Kitts and Nevis on Wednesday, but the arrival of Ivan pushed the game to yesterday. St. Vincent and the Grenadines won, 1-0.
Consequently, Hendrickson won't be available for United today.
He probably wouldn't have started, but his absence, coupled with Stewart's injury, has limited D.C.'s depth heading into the final stretch of the regular season. United (6-9-9) has not won in 4 1/2 weeks, having gone 0-1-3 since beating Colorado on Aug. 11, and is only three points ahead of New England (5-10-9) for the final playoff berth in the MLS's Eastern Conference.
But the club hopes playing four of its final six matches at home will provide a lift.
"It's been a long stretch since the last win, but we had three away games and got two ties [in addition to a home tie with New England], so it's not the end of the world," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "Now we have our home stretch. It's just important we do the job here at home like we've done for the most part this year."
United is 5-2-4 at home and 1-7-5 on the road, including a 3-1 loss to the short-handed Fire last weekend.
Alecko Eskandarian, the club's co-leader in goals with seven, likely will return to the starting lineup today after missing two games because of a sprained ankle. Nowak might also start Jaime Moreno, Freddy Adu and Argentine newcomer Christian Gomez, giving United more attacking prowess than usual.
Gomez "is doing a fantastic job," Nowak said. "He's talking to the guys and asking when he doesn't know about the tactical stuff. He's the first at practice and he leaves last, and he wants to know more and more. I think the understanding between him and Jaime and the other guys is pretty good now."
But perhaps United's greatest concern is its defense, which is tied with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars for most goals allowed in MLS (38).
"As a team, we've gotten away a little bit from team defending and helping each other out," Olsen said. "That's what we've emphasized all week, to help each other and get back to that team concept. But on the flip side of that, when we have the ball we've got to do better keeping possession and getting the space right in the midfield. . . .
"We're excited about this stretch. We're ready to get back to the way we played early this season. We've talked a lot about it, but when the game comes, we've got to prove it."
United Notes: Plans for a postseason trip to Ghana appear to have fallen through but there remains a slim chance the club could play in Libya. . . . Technical director Dave Kasper said there's a possibility the team will sign one more player before the end of the regular season, but declined to be more specific.
RAPIDS 3, WIZARDS 1: Joe Cannon stopped a shot from close range in the 76th minute and a penalty kick five minutes later, helping Colorado win at home.