By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
D.C. United began preparing for the playoffs yesterday with the MLS goal-scoring champion in the locker room receiving treatment, the league's career goals leader limited to conditioning exercises on the sideline, and a potential replacement player at a doctor's office.
With its first-round series against the Chicago Fire set to begin Thursday night in Bridgeview, Ill., United remains uncertain whether starting forwards Luciano Emilio (sprained ankle) and Jaime Moreno (foot-ankle injury) will be available. Rod Dyachenko, a reserve midfielder-forward who appeared in 14 of 30 regular season games, was also absent yesterday because of a back ailment that has bothered him for several weeks.
Both Emilio and Moreno "said they feel better than they did the other day, so no need to rush them back," Coach Tom Soehn said after watching the rest of his players work out for 90 minutes at the RFK Stadium training grounds. The club will "make sure that they get the amount of rest they need and we'll see how they respond throughout the week."
The pair was hurt during Saturday's regular season finale, a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Crew that snapped United's unbeaten streak in league play at 13 games. Moreno (seven goals this year, 112 in his 12-year MLS career) departed shortly after kickoff when he said he stepped in a seam on RFK's new grass surface and aggravated an injury to the area between his right foot and ankle. Emilio, who had 20 goals in his first season in MLS and only missed one league match, limped off five minutes into the second half.
"The way [Moreno] has responded, he says he is going to be fine," Soehn said. "With Luciano, it's a new one. He hasn't been hurt much, so there is still a learning curve to see how well and how fast he heals. We will probably evaluate him right up to game time."
Emilio plans to test his ankle today. "It's better," he said. "I can walk, but I cannot run. I will try to jog a little bit and then we will look and see. I don't know at this moment if I will be able to play."
Soehn acknowledged that he has begun weighing his options if Emilio or Moreno is unavailable. The top candidate is rookie Guy-Roland Kpene, who has displayed mature technical ability and instincts but has yet to score. Kpene entered in the first half Saturday when Moreno departed.
Soehn could move a midfielder, such as Fred, into a forward role, but last week's announcement that Josh Gros would miss the rest of the season with head injuries has left United with fewer choices.
Kpene "came in and impacted the game," Soehn said. "I would still like to see him be a little bit more hungry, but when he did come in, he helped us hold the ball and make guys around him better. It was a much better performance on his side. Can he still raise it a level? Absolutely."
United Notes: At last night's awards banquet, Emilio was named the club's most valuable player, Bryan Namoff the defender of the year and Bobby Boswell the humanitarian of the year. Ben Olsen took home the coaches' award, the fans' choice award and goal of the year honors for his long volley against New York in June that capped his first career hat trick.