Injuries continue to mount for downtrodden D.C. United

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 4, 2010; 12:09 AM

Each day seems to bring new misery for D.C. United. If it's not a crushing defeat, it's an injury. The latest misfortune: Left back Marc Burch, who returned from a four-month layoff to rejoin the starting lineup five weeks ago, re-injured his right foot and is expected to miss the remainder of this gloomy season.

At some point during his 120-minute effort Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup overtime loss to the Columbus Crew, club officials said, Burch fractured the sesamoid bone - the same setback that required surgery in preseason.

On Friday, as the weary team prepared for Saturday night's rematch with the Crew in an MLS game at RFK Stadium, the medical staff was in the process of scheduling another operation and outlining a timeframe for recovery.

"Pour it on, just pour it on," interim coach Ben Olsen said of a campaign beset with long-term injuries to several regulars and mounting defeats.

Injuries have been particularly hard on the backline.

Bryan Namoff, the veteran right back, has not played this year because of a concussion and essentially retired. Rodney Wallace, a left back and midfielder, has been out since June with a leg fracture. Center back Dejan Jakovic missed almost two months with a broken clavicle. Center back Juan Manuel Pena might return to the game-day roster Saturday after being sidelined for two months with a quadriceps injury.

Midfielder-forward Chris Pontius has been slowed all season with a hamstring ailment, reserve midfielder Brandon Barklage tore an anterior cruciate ligament in May and third-string goalkeeper Andrew Quinn suffered a serious knee injury early in the year.

Burch's injury occurred on the night United's desperate bid to salvage the season was crushed by the Crew, which scored the equalizer in the 89th minute and went ahead on a penalty kick in overtime for a 2-1 victory.

With the Open Cup quest over and the MLS playoffs out of reach, "we're playing for our jobs," midfielder Santino Quaranta said. "People say there is nothing to play for; I don't agree. There's pride in what we do, and everyone wants to be back next year."

Added defender Devon McTavish: "With a record like this, there's going to be a lot of turnover this winter, so everyone has to prove themselves. And as a team, we want to get out of the cellar. It's a place no one wants to be."

With eight games remaining, United (4-15-3) is five points behind the expansion Philadelphia Union and six behind the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference. D.C. also needs to win at least five matches to avoid the worst year in its 15-season history.

Two of the next three games, however, are against conference leaders: Columbus (12-5-5) on Saturday and at Western front-runner Los Angeles (13-5-4) on Sept. 18.

The reunion with the Crew promises to be edgy following a contentious affair Wednesday. Both teams were guilty of harsh tackles, and a midfield commotion early in the second half led to the ejection of United forward Pablo Hernandez.

Afterward, Burch said Columbus has "a couple of dirty players that made some dirty plays. It's going to be payback."

Others played down the physical aspect of Wednesday's meeting, tying it to the importance of the match. Nonetheless, "the loss is still fresh, and to play the same team, it's good for us," McTavish said. "We're still a little bitter about the way it ended."

United notes: Jakovic and midfielder Branko Boskovic are away on international duty. Boskovic played 74 minutes in Montenegro's 1-0 victory over Wales on Friday in a 2012 European Championship qualifier, and Jakovic is a possible starter for Canada on Saturday against Peru in Toronto. . . . Crew forward Emilio Renteria (four goals) is representing Venezuela.

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