Soehn, United Are Forced To Adapt to Roster Changes
Saturday, September 13, 2008
D.C. United Coach Tom Soehn might have a hard time ascertaining who is available tonight against FC Dallas at RFK Stadium.
Domenic Mediate and Jeff Carroll have been ruled out for the year, and Ben Olsen is sidelined indefinitely. Joe Vide will miss the match because of a hamstring injury, while Zach Wells is close to returning from a foot ailment.
Three recovering starters -- Luciano Emilio, Gonzalo Peralta and Fred -- are listed as probable, though their true status is unclear. Marcelo Gallardo, just back from hernia surgery, is nursing a sore ankle and illness, and Jaime Moreno is back in town after spending a week with the Bolivian national team.
Adding to the fluctuations, United announced yesterday the acquisition of defenders Ibrahim Koroma and Greg Janicki, and forward Thabiso "Boyzzz" Khumalo. The club also waived rookie midfielder Dane Murphy.
Koroma, 19, started for Sierra Leone in a World Cup qualifier last week, and Janicki and Khumalo were teammates on the third-division Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Though all three are eligible tonight, Khumalo, a South Africa native who has been training with the club for several weeks, is the only one likely to play right away.
For Soehn, the absences and roster changes have undermined his need for stability heading into a treacherous final stretch.
"The frustrating part as a coach is that you want to build consistency," he said. "Obviously, that tends to be difficult when you are changing lineups every game due to what you have. It's part of the game and you have to deal with it, and you have to make sure that you spend enough time with other guys, so that when they come in, they make a difference.
"It might not be as pretty, but you are going to have to make up for that with how hard they work."
Over the next 46 days, United will play its final seven MLS regular season matches as well as six first-round group games against international competition in the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League, starting Tuesday against visiting Saprissa (Costa Rica). Injuries, fatigue, suspensions and national team call-ups are sure to continue impacting Soehn's options.
"It's so hard to get a rhythm when you've got so many guys in and out. It plays with your mind," forward-midfielder Santino Quaranta said. "Everybody [around the league] keeps saying, 'When D.C. gets everybody back . . .' Who knows if that is every going to happen. It's just the way the season has been."
Inconsistent lineups have led to inconsistent results. United (10-11-2) has not won two straight in league play since late June, leaving the club tied with New York for fourth place in the Eastern Conference and 11 points behind front-running Columbus. The top three teams in each conference will qualify for the playoffs and the next two clubs with the most points, regardless of conference affiliation, receive the final berths.
At the moment, both D.C. and New York would advance. However, the congested schedule and personnel issues could threaten United's hopes.
A groin injury sidelined Emilio, the club's leading scorer with 11 goals, for most of the U.S. Open Cup final Sept. 3 and all of last Saturday's league match at San Jose. "He's making his way back," Soehn said. "How we use him, I am not sure yet."
Peralta (hamstring) said he is not in peak fitness and won't play tonight, while Fred (hamstring) indicated he would probably be available as a substitute.
To bolster the roster, United finalized loan deals for Khumalo, Janicki and Koroma, who "is probably going to be a bit of a project," General Manager Dave Kasper said. "You put him in a different environment and you see how far and how fast he can go."
United Notes: At halftime, the club will honor the 1998 squad that won the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, beat Brazil's Vasco da Gama in the Interamerican Cup and lost to Chicago in MLS Cup. Two members of that '98 team, Richie Williams and Jeff Agoos, were named finalists for induction into United's Hall of Tradition. Voting is taking place on the team's Web site, www.dcunited.com. The winner will be honored Oct. 16.