United's Fred Will Be Out 3-4 Weeks

United Coach Tom Soehn calls the hamstring strain of Fred, rising to make a play on the ball against the Houston Dynamo last month,
United Coach Tom Soehn calls the hamstring strain of Fred, rising to make a play on the ball against the Houston Dynamo last month, "disappointing because he's been coming on." (By Lawrence Jackson -- Associated Press)
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By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 23, 2008

During a season in which its roster has been overwhelmed by injury, D.C. United received more bad news this week as Brazilian midfielder Fred will miss three to four weeks with a left hamstring strain suffered during United's 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution on Wednesday.

The loss of Fred, whose creativity is a crucial part of the team's attack, comes at a time when coaches and teammates say the 29-year-old was beginning to play his best soccer.

"It's really disappointing because he's been coming on," United Coach Tom Soehn said. "It's just something we've gone through a lot this year and we'll have to get through this stretch as well."

The injury comes as another blow to a United lineup that, because of injuries, suspensions and international call-ups has been in flux for most of the season.

Midfielder Ben Olsen has played in just one game this season as he continues to work back from a career-threatening ankle injury, defender Gonzalo Peralta has missed time due to a sports hernia and has been ruled out again with a hamstring injury, midfielder Domenic Mediate has not played since suffering a concussion on June 22 and midfielder Marcelo Gallardo has played in just 12 MLS games this season as he continues to recover from sports hernia surgery. Forward Francis Doe (foot infection) and midfielder Jeff Carroll (toe) are also out.

"Consistency comes with putting the same guys on the field and we've had a carousel of guys whether it be injury or suspensions so on that part it's been frustrating," Soehn said. "But we have to keep fighting through it and making sure whatever changes we do make everybody is confident enough to carry out what we try to accomplish every game."

The absence of Gallardo has been especially difficult for a midfield that has struggled to find a player to fill that role. Gallardo, who has not played since June 29, had surgery to repair the hernia in July and was expected to take two to three weeks to recover. But on Monday, General Manager Dave Kasper said the midfielder continues to suffer from "irritation" because of the removal of scar tissue during the surgery.

The extended loss of Gallardo in the midfield will be amplified tonight upon the return of former United star Christian Gómez, who was traded to Colorado in February.

Gómez, whom Gallardo essentially replaced, was a part of United's fourth Major League Soccer title in 2004, was named to the MLS Best XI over the next three seasons and was the league MVP in 2006, but was traded after being unable to agree to a contract extension with United.

The Argentine midfielder has been out of favor in Colorado and is not expected to start, but players said yesterday they know Gómez will have extra motivation in his first trip back to D.C. if he does play.

"I know he wants to play here for sure," United forward Santino Quaranta said. "And you have to respect a guy [who has] done a lot for this club. I'm sure he was upset about leaving; I know he didn't want to leave and he's got something to play for as well."

Quaranta is expected to step into the playmaking role behind forwards Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emilio for the fourth consecutive game, and yesterday spoke at length about his comfort in the role. Soehn said he has been pleased with Quaranta's growth in the position, but joked that when he finally gets comfortable things may change again.

"Everything takes time and I think the more he does it the better he gets at it. And right to the point when he gets good we might get Marcelo back," Soehn said, chuckling.

With Fred and Gallardo out, and as United continues to search for consistency -- both in its play and lineup -- Quaranta said tonight's home game and the Aug. 30 meeting with New York take on even more importance.

"We need six points, I think everybody knows that," Quaranta said. "We have to get six points in these two games because going down into the last couple games it's not going to be easy to beat teams at home. You have to get maximum points at home. That's the bottom line.

"I think it is [a must-win]. You can't go into a game at this juncture in the season, knowing with the amount of guys we have out right now, we have to go in knowing we have to win this game. If not, then there's a problem."

United Notes: Marc Burch is out with a suspension (yellow card accumulation) . . . GK Zach Wells (foot injury) is out . . . Former United defender Facundo Erpen, who was traded along with Gómez, will also make his return to D.C. and is expected to start. . . . Colorado and former coach Fernando Clavijo parted ways Wednesday and Gary Smith will make his debut as head coach tonight. . . . United MF Iván Guerrero has returned from international duty with Honduras and will play tonight. D Gonzalo Martínez returns from a yellow card suspension.

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