The thought of playing three matches in eight days at this late juncture of the MLS season should not appeal to any coach, especially when the venues for the first two are separated by a few thousand miles.

D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen, however, sees opportunity in the cluster of games to test three newcomers and use a variety of players to help identify his premier lineup heading into the final stretch.

“The challenge is, what’s our best team and how do we go about the rest of the season with the new players?” he said ahead of Saturday’s visit to Vancouver. “It probably comes at a good time, to get minutes for a lot of guys. We’re going to need a bunch of players to contribute if we are going to be successful for the next week.”


Felipe Martins, a defensive midfielder acquired last week in a trade with the Whitecaps, already has made a good impression, logging 90 minutes in his debut Sunday, a 2-1 home victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy.


Winger Emmanuel Boateng, obtained in a deadline-beating deal with the Galaxy, is awaiting his first chance. And the most notable signing, Norwegian striker Ola Kamara, received a work visa Monday and began workouts the next day.

All three made the long trip to British Columbia on Thursday.

Additionally, captain Wayne Rooney is back with the squad after missing the Galaxy match with what the organization said was an upper respiratory illness. Defensive midfielder Junior Moreno has returned from a red-card suspension.


“We’ve got a lot of options,” Olsen said, “a lot of different ways to go.”

While Moreno seems likely to partner with Martins, the other selections are not as clear.

Rooney (team-best 11 goals) trained all week, and, Olsen said, “each day he looked better and better,” which suggests he will start.


United almost always plays with one forward, but with Kamara now in the mix, Olsen said he has not ruled out pairing Kamara and Rooney. He also could put Kamara up front and Rooney in a withdrawn role to take advantage of his distribution and vision.

The issue that might keep Kamara out of the starting lineup is fitness. He has not played a competitive match since June 16 — 90 minutes for Chinese club Shenzhen — and appeared just five times overall in China after leaving the Galaxy in February.


Kamara also played twice in June — both as a substitute — for the Norwegian national team in European Championship qualifiers.

From a fitness standpoint, Olsen said, “we have to make sure we build him up so he is set up to succeed the rest of this season."

Though he did not feature regularly in China, Kamara is a proven MLS scorer: 48 goals in three seasons (two with Columbus, one with Los Angeles).


“He understands who he is. He knows how to maneuver in the box,” Olsen said, “and we have to make sure we are supplying him with the right service and opportunities so he can do what he does best, which is score goals.”

Another lineup question is whether midfielder Luciano Acosta returns from a benching. Acosta, who is in the final year of his contract, traveled with the team and “is available for selection like everybody else,” Olsen said without commenting on the Argentine’s specific role.


Paul Arriola, a natural wing, filled the central slot against the Galaxy, scoring the first goal and playing a part in Lucas Rodriguez’s second-half winner.

The match against the Whitecaps marks the start of a heavy stretch of away matches. After hosting the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, United will visit Philadelphia, Montreal and Portland before playing its next home MLS match Sept. 22 against Seattle. At 4-4-4, D.C. is among four clubs in the 24-team league without a losing record on the road.


With eight matches left, D.C. (10-7-9, 39 points) enters the weekend third in the Eastern Conference, six points behind front-running Philadelphia and six points above the playoff threshold. Seven teams will advance.


Last in the Western Conference, the Whitecaps (5-12-9, 24 points) are in a 0-2-2 home rut and 1-6-4 overall. The lone victory came at Cincinnati, the last-place team in the Eastern Conference.

D.C. United at Vancouver Whitecaps

Where: BC Place.

When: 10 p.m. Saturday.

Live streams: FloFC, ESPN+. Both are subscriptions services. ESPN+ subject to blackout.

Records: United 10-7-9, 39 points; Whitecaps 5-12-9, 24 points.

D.C. probable starters: GK Bill Hamid; Ds Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steve Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; MFs Paul Arriola, Felipe Martins, Junior Moreno, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; F Wayne Rooney.


Vancouver probable starters: GK Maxime Crepeau; Ds Brett Levis, Derek Cornelius, Erik Godoy, Jake Nerwinski; MFs Andy Rose, Inbeom Hwang, Russell Teibert, Theo Bair, Fredy Montero; F Yordy Reyna.

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