D.C. United will lose players to international duty again, but its two opponents during a critical stretch of the MLS playoff chase will also be depleted.
D.C. midfielders Junior Moreno (Venezuela) and Ulises Segura (Costa Rica) and forwards Darren Mattocks and Dane Kelly (both Jamaica) will be away for the Oct. 13 match against FC Dallas at Audi Field. Moreno, a starter, and Segura, a reserve who plays regularly, are also scheduled to remain with their respective national teams for friendlies Oct. 16, the day before United will host Toronto FC.
Because Jamaica has just one match, on Oct. 14, Mattocks and Kelly will be available against Toronto. Although he now backs up Wayne Rooney, Mattocks remains United’s leading scorer with 10 goals. Kelly has played sparingly.
This set of call-ups was not as severe as last month’s, when six D.C. players were summoned. (One did not report because of injury, and two returned in time to play in a midweek MLS game.) Between call-ups and injuries, United had 15 players in uniform, three fewer than normal, for a visit to New York City FC.
United caught a break this time as Hungary did not request midfielder Zoltan Stieber, the United States left behind midfielder Paul Arriola and Bolivia passed on midfielder-forward Bruno Miranda.
FC Dallas will be without three players: U.S. defender Reggie Cannon, Ecuadoran midfielder Carlos Gruezo and Honduran defender Maynor Figueroa. Paraguayan forward Cristian Colman was also called, but he suffered a knee injury this week.
Cannon, a right back who will attend his first U.S. camp, has started every match for Dallas. Figueroa has not started since Aug. 29. Gruezo is a regular in defensive midfield.
U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley and Italian forward Sebastian Giovinco head a group of six Toronto call-ups. The others are with the Canadian national team: defender Ashtone Morgan, midfielders Jay Chapman and Jonathan Osorio and forward Tosaint Ricketts.
However, with Italy playing on Oct. 10 and 14, Giovinco (16 goals, six assists) is tentatively slated to rejoin his club for the Washington visit. Because Canada’s national team is playing in Toronto on Oct. 16, some of those players could be uniform against United, if they have not played the night before.
Bradley, Giovinco and Osorio are full-time starters.
United (10-11-8, 38 points) will be at almost full strength this Sunday afternoon for a home match against the Chicago Fire (8-16-7, 31 points). Unbeaten in five straight, D.C. has pulled within two points of Montreal for the sixth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. United has five games left, Montreal three.
Most first-division leagues around the world go dark during FIFA windows, to avoid such player conflicts. MLS, however, typically schedules a smaller number of games. There are eight in and around the window this month.
United was particularly impacted this fall because of a backloaded schedule, caused by Audi Field’s midseason opening.
MLS will go dark during the FIFA window in November, when the league’s playoffs have reached the conference finals.