D.C. United star Dwayne De Rosario has been sidelined for six weeks with a left knee injury suffered in Canada’s World Cup qualifier at Panama. At the time, the club said he would miss 10 to 12 weeks, effectively ending his MLS season. However, De Rosario has made steady progress in rehabilitation and United Coach Ben Olsen said Saturday that he hasn’t ruled out the 2011 MLS most valuable player returning – should D.C. advance deep in the playoffs.

I sat down with DeRo this morning at RFK Stadium…

How is your knee?

“It is coming along. It feels good today. I am doing a lot of work on it to get the strength back. It’s starting to get there. I am able to run, bike work, cardio work. I have been doing some lateral movement. So far it feels good. It’s still a little ways to go. I got back outside toward the end of last week to do sprints, controlled lateral movement, some ball work.”

Are you ahead of schedule?

“I don’t know whose schedule it was. [laughing] Ten to 12 weeks is what they say, but right now I am doing great. I wouldn’t say I am ahead of schedule because I haven’t really gotten into any playing or possession. Until I am in that environment, practicing normally, I won’t know exactly where I am. Right now, my focus is getting as strong as possible so when I do go into that environment, there won’t be any second-guessing in my mind. I want to be comfortable and ready to go.”

When do you think you could rejoin regular training?

“I hope by next week.”

Do you think you can play again soon?

“Yeah. Obviously, it depends on what transpires with me and the team over the next couple of weeks. If we continue to push through, you can definitely see me in the mix.”

So it’s fair to say you are aiming for the Eastern Conference finals, should the club advance that far?

“Potentially, yeah.”

Is the medical staff tempering your expectations about returning?

“They are being more cautious. I am ready to go. [laughing] I have been pushing myself and doing stuff at home. They know that. That’s just me being me. It’s no disrespect to what they are having me do. Sometimes, it’s my hardheadedness. Sometimes, it’s my passion for the sport. I know it’s my knee and it came at an important part of my career. So I am being very mindful of how it feels and monitoring it. Anything I do, I do it very slow and controlled before I pick up the tempo. The staff can tell me about the body part, how it functions and what they recommend, but they can’t tell me about my body. The staff has been great. It’s just a matter of trying to get back.”

When you first were injured, did you see any hope of playing again this season?

“No, not really. I figured that was it for my season. But I thought, ‘Let’s give it a shot and see if I can make it back.’ I have been focused on it.”

Has the fact that you always keep yourself in such good health with nutrition and good fitness helped in this recovery?

“Definitely. The injury has gone accordingly in terms of healing, but I believe the way I take care of myself off the field speeds up the recovery.”

It must have been frustrating for you not being able to play while the team was making a playoff push.

“Frustratingly happy. I couldn’t be involved, but I am very proud of what the guys accomplished. They really came together. It reminds me of old championship teams back in the day [when he played for in San Jose and Houston] where everyone is contributing at the right time and the camaraderie of the team is becoming tighter at the crucial time of the year. The playoffs are an emotional ride and you need that strength in numbers within the team to keep the guys focused and keep their minds clear of our goals and objectives.”

They’ve done okay without you!

“Yeah! They’ve been grinding out results. It’s not always going to be the prettiest football but it is going to be effective. We’ve played some good football too.”

If you return, might it disrupt the rhythm?

“Whether I think I should play is something I will need to think about. Should I play or should I let these guys ride this good run they are on? Right now, I am just looking to get back, and when I do, I am always there for those guys, on or off the field.”

Did you watch Canada’s 8-1 loss to Honduras?

“Yeah. It was extremely difficult, very disappointing.”

Some players, at the conclusion of a World Cup qualifying effort, retire from international soccer. At age 34, have you given that any thought?

“I enjoy playing for Canada, I enjoy getting called up, it’s a good feeling and a proud moment. It’s something I take a lot of pride in. I have thought about whether or not I am going to hang up the boots with the national team. I don’t think I am there yet mentally. My goal is to make the World Cup. That is what is pushing me on to not hang up the boots.”

What now for the national team?

“It’s all about rebuilding for the future and getting some young guys into the team as quickly as possible. The Gold Cup is next year so it’s important to start implementing now.”

Have they offered you the coaching job yet?

[Laughter] “It’s something I would definitely entertain in the future, for sure. Being around it long enough, understanding CONCACAF, knowing how to deal with situations mentally, the environment, dealing with characters on the team, I think it would be a good test, a good challenge. But, hey, that is down the road. I am still planning on enjoying every moment as a player.”