D.C. United Coach Tom Soehn offered strong indications yesterday that he plans to bench Brazilian striker Luciano Emilio, the reigning MLS most valuable player who has been stuck in a prolonged slump.
"We are just in a situation where we have not been getting enough out of that position and it is time to give someone else a shot," Soehn said before departing for Southern California, where United (2-5) will play Chivas USA (1-4-2) tomorrow night at Home Depot Center in Carson.
Emilio (one goal, one assist in seven league starts) sat out a portion of yesterday's practice with what Soehn described as a strained quadriceps, but was scheduled to accompany the team on the trip. He declined an interview request.
Asked to confirm that Emilio would travel but not start, Soehn said: "I didn't say that, either. You never know. We have a few days before we decide what our lineup is going to be."
MLS's leading scorer a year ago with 20 goals, Emilio has gone scoreless in his last six appearances, including an international tournament match against Pachuca (Mexico). His problems stem from both a lack of opportunities created by teammates and faulty finishing inside the penalty area.
"He just has to dedicate himself to the game," Soehn said. "He has got to apply himself more and work harder like everybody else in every other position."
Francis Doe or Franco Niell would start in Emilio's place.
United upgraded Emilio's contract to designated player status earlier this month, which means he will earn at least $400,000 this season. The raise was seen by some observers around the league as a way of motivating him. If he does not return to his scoring ways, however, United could end up transferring him abroad.
Meantime, United's game-day roster status remains unsettled. Brazilian midfielder Fred (hamstring) will miss his third consecutive match and defender-midfielder Devon McTavish (foot) is expected to miss his fourth in a row. Defender Gonzalo Peralta was not on the team flight yesterday to be with his wife, who is on bed rest while expecting their second child, but he might travel on his own to Los Angeles today or tomorrow.
There was better news concerning Argentine playmaker Marcelo Gallardo, who participated in workouts the past two days after overcoming a groin injury that sidelined him for one match. He is expected to start.
-- Steven Goff