August 30, 2018 at 1:49 PM
D.C. United was already facing a tall enough task in trying to earn at least a point next weekend at Yankee Stadium, where New York City FC is unbeaten in 13 appearances.
International call-ups will compound matters.
Between five and seven players, including several starters, will miss the Sept. 8 visit to the Bronx because of national team duty. The MLS game falls inside a FIFA fixture window, meaning United cannot prevent them from leaving. Some of those same players will also miss the Sept. 12 match against Minnesota at Audi Field.
Junior Moreno (Venezuela), Zoltan Stieber (Hungary), Oniel Fisher and Darren Mattocks (Jamaica) and Bruno Miranda (Bolivia) have been formally summoned by their respective national teams. Bill Hamid and Paul Arriola were included on the U.S. preliminary list, though the final squad of about 25 players will not come out until Sunday.
Players will begin reporting to national team camps Monday.
Because of Jamaica’s schedule — Ecuador on Sept. 7 at Red Bull Arena and the Cayman Islands two days later at home — Fisher and Mattocks will return to Washington in time for the Minnesota match.
Moreno, Stieber, Fisher, Hamid and Arriola started in the 2-0 defeat to Philadelphia on Wednesday. Mattocks was a second-half sub. Miranda has not played in more than a month. (Fisher’s national team status could change after he left Wednesday’s game at halftime with a tight hamstring.)
United dodged further damage as Costa Rica did not call up Ulises Segura.
New York City FC will lose Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Libya), Maxime Chanot (Luxembourg), Ebenezer Ofori (Ghana) and Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica). Tajouri-Shradi is tied for the team lead in goals with 10, while Chanot and Ofori are starters.
The match again raises the issue of MLS scheduling games during FIFA windows, when most first-division circuits around the world go dark to avoid such player conflicts. In fairness, in recent years, MLS has reduced the number of league games in these periodic windows, and for the Sept. 3-11 spell, plus the day after, there are just five games.
United, however, is involved in two of them. There is a reasonable explanation: Because of Audi Field’s midseason opening, D.C. asked the league to backload its schedule to maximize home dates. Consequently, United faced a heavy schedule between mid-July and late October.
If Hamid is called for U.S. friendlies against Brazil and Mexico, United would have to find a temporary goalkeeper to back up Travis Worra. D.C.’s third keeper, David Ousted, is on the disabled list after having elbow surgery last week.
Theoretically, if they don’t feature against Mexico on Sept. 11, Hamid and Arriola could play for United the next day.
Moreno’s absence would elevate Segura or Chris Durkin into the starting lineup. If Arriola, a midfielder, isn’t called up, he could replace Fisher at right back, but that would leave a hole at right wing. Stieber’s place on the left wing would probably be taken by Yamil Asad, but only if the Argentine returns from an ankle injury that sidelined him Wednesday and might keep him out of this Sunday’s home match against Atlanta.
Bench options would include, among others, midfielder Ian Harkes, who hasn’t played since July 14, and Vytautas “Vytas” Andriuskevicius, who has yet to make his D.C. debut since an Aug. 8 trade with Portland.
In FIFA’s Oct. 8-16 window (and following day), MLS has scheduled seven games. United is in two of them: home vs. Dallas and Toronto. The league will go dark in mid-November (when the playoffs have reached the conference finals) for the last FIFA window of the year.
D.C. United call-ups
Junior Moreno (Venezuela): vs. Colombia Sept. 7 in Miami, at Panama Sept. 9.
Zoltan Stieber (Hungary): at Finland Sept. 8, vs. Greece Sept. 11.
Darren Mattocks (Jamaica): vs. Ecuador in Harrison, N.J., Sept. 7, vs. Cayman Islands Sept. 9.
Oniel Fisher (Jamaica): vs. Ecuador in Harrison, N.J., Sept. 7, vs. Cayman Islands Sept. 9.
Bruno Miranda (Bolivia): at Saudi Arabia Sept. 6, at Kuwait Sept. 10.
*Bill Hamid (United States): vs. Brazil in East Rutherford, N.J., Sept. 7, vs. Mexico in Nashville, Sept. 11.
*Paul Arriola (United States): vs. Brazil in East Rutherford, N.J., Sept. 7, vs. Mexico in Nashville, Sept. 11.
* – Included on U.S. preliminary list. Final squad to be announced Sunday.
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