For a club that was undermanned just three days ago in Vancouver, D.C. United looked like a healthy group Tuesday at the RFK Stadium training grounds.
The only notable absence was goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, who hurt an ankle during the 2-1 victory over the MLS-leading Whitecaps.
With several players back in the mix, Coach Ben Olsen will have more roster options Saturday against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium than he did for the Vancouver match. For that clash, four regulars stayed behind (three injuries, plus Miguel Aguilar‘s travel issues related to his work permit) and Olsen had just five available substitutes, two fewer than the norm.
The most pressing issue is goalkeeper.
Judging from Tuesday’s session, Hamid appears on pace to return to the lineup this weekend.
“He trained today,” Olsen said, attempting to temper expectations. “We’ll take it day by day.”
Dykstra did not practice but, back inside the stadium, was walking without trouble. He said he will have to wait and see how it feels later in the week.
“The initial thoughts from the scan were that it wasn’t that bad,” Olsen said. “Hopefully that is the case and we can get him back in the next few days, and see how that goes.”
If Dykstra is not available, Travis Worra will suit up again. On Saturday, with Hamid back home and Dykstra limping off the field early in the second half, the undrafted rookie made his MLS debut.
“He did fine coming in,” Olsen said. “Tough game to be thrown into, and sometimes that is the best medicine for a young goalkeeper — to get that out of the way. I thought he held up well. He had a few moments I’m sure he would have done some things differently, but overall, very pleased and happy for him that he came in and helped secure the win.”
Worra’s starting assignments at third-division Richmond helped prepare him for the unexpected United gig.
“The games really help, and [players] come back and you see it when they train with us or if we need them in a game,” Olsen said. “They are just sharper in every aspect.”
Kemp, the starting left back, was ruled out on the day of the match. “Maybe it was food poisoning, maybe he just had a 24-hour bug, but he was in no shape to play,” Olsen said. Chris Korb started in his place.
Olsen said Arnaud has been dealing with a groin ailment. His absence Saturday was mostly because of the injury but also involved long-term precaution. “We have two months ahead of us with a lot of games, and we want to make sure he is healthy for that stretch,” Olsen said. “It is a long trip [to Vancouver] and sometimes we forget Davy is not the youngest guy [35 in June]. Because he is such a competitor and wants to play every day and every game, it’s tough sometimes to leave him back. I am glad we did because in the future we are going to be better for it.”
Vancouver’s artificial surface would have been detrimental, as well.
“The turf there is terrible,” Olsen said. “I know they are replacing it for Women’s World Cup.”
Halsti, who can play in central midfield or defense, “looked good today,” Olsen said. “Full out, ready to go. We’ve got to get a full week of training under him. We’ll talk later in the week about this weekend, if he can play into that. It’s just important for him to get a few real training sessions under his belt without any hiccups.”
Birnbaum, a starting center back, is not as far along as Halsti but should return to the mix soon.
United welcomed a trialist to town this week: midfielder Hernan Hinostroza, a 21-year-old midfielder with Peruvian under-20 national team experience. He is a free agent after spending last season with Universidad de San Martin, on loan from Belgium’s Zulte Waregem. His most recent appearance was Nov. 30.
United views him as a prospect who might be worth signing “down the road.” For perspective, trialists will flow through town periodically throughout the year, particularly in the summer, but few are serious candidates for a contract.