“It’s an exciting little trio,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “They are competing with themselves. You can tell they are really good friends. To watch them support each other as they go through this little journey but also compete and raise their levels to get on the field is a lot of fun to watch.”
The three are getting minutes for several reasons: Injuries have ravaged the roster, the condensed schedule requires Olsen to tap into his reserves, and the more experienced players have not gotten the job done.
United (1-4-3) is carrying a six-game winless streak into Wednesday’s match at the New York Red Bulls (3-3-2).
Paredes, a rookie winger from South Riding, started the past three matches. Yow, a second-year attacker from Clifton, subbed into three of the past four. Nyeman, a rookie defensive midfielder from Riverdale Park, got his first chance during the lost cause in Chester, Pa.
“Thinking back to everything we did together as teammates, it was a very overwhelming moment, but you still have got to play soccer,” said Nyeman, who was born in Liberia and came to the United States in 2013. “Overall it was a very good opportunity for me.”
Had the novel coronavirus pandemic not altered the season, the teenagers would have trained full time with the first team and played for both D.C. United and Loudoun United, the second-division developmental squad based in Leesburg.
Last year, all three appeared in Loudoun games, Yow as a professional and the other two as amateurs.
However, because the leagues have different coronavirus testing protocols, the trio will not shuttle between teams this year. Besides, given the various issues facing the MLS squad, Olsen needs them. On Saturday, United had only six available subs; as part of pandemic adjustments, teams typically have nine on the bench.
Olsen’s challenge is balancing the need to provide playing time for his teenagers and retaining a lineup with the experience to meet the demands of serious matches. In other words, he wants to further their development without sacrificing results.
Missing the playoffs in a year when 18 of 26 teams qualify would be a major embarrassment.
“Whether it’s the concentration level or the physical development of their bodies,” Olsen said of the trio, “it’s hard to play them every game throughout a whole season.”
United has a history of playing teenagers. Among them: Freddy Adu, Santino Quaranta, Bill Hamid, Andy Najar and Chris Durkin.
It was an impressive weekend around the league for U.S. teenagers: Five scored, including San Jose’s Cade Cowell, 16, in his first start.
While Olsen said Yow and Nyeman are not suited for certain opponents and situations, he noted Paredes has shown “in these early days he is not as scenario-based. He is competitive and he is fiery and he has a lot of elements that make him not only a good player on the offensive end, but also [can] hang in there physically against bigger boys.”
All three will need to bulk up: They average 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds. Paredes is listed at 117 pounds in the media notes and 120 on his MLS profile.
Nyeman (5-5 and 135 pounds) said he was excited and nervous before entering Saturday.
“But getting a word from the coach — ‘Congratulations. Make the most of it. You’ve got this. This is a moment; just live it and enjoy the game.’ — those were encouraging words I took personally. It helped me settle into the game and be free and play soccer.”
Notes: Russell Canouse (hamstring) and Edison Flores (head) remain out with injuries. Captain Steven Birnbaum and Frédéric Brillant are questionable with ankle ailments. …
Hamid, who missed the Philadelphia match for personal reasons, resumed training Tuesday. Olsen did not say whether he would start. … Venezuelan striker Gelmin Rivas, who signed Monday, is not eligible; he is awaiting a work visa and other paperwork to be finalized. …
United is winless in the past 10 meetings (0-5-5) with the Red Bulls and has not won at Red Bull Arena since 2012.
D.C. United at New York Red Bulls
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.
TV: WJLA 24/7 News. Live stream: dcunited.com.
Records: United 1-4-3, 6 points; Red Bulls 3-3-2, 11 points.
D.C. probable starters: GK Bill Hamid; Ds Axel Sjoberg, Donovan Pines, Joseph Mora; MFs Julian Gressel, Júnior Moreno, Felipe Martins, Yamil Asad, Kevin Paredes; Fs Ulises Segura, Ola Kamara.
N.Y. probable starters: GK Ryan Meara; Ds Kyle Duncan, Aaron Long, Tim Parker, Jason Pendant; MFs Florian Valot, Cristian Casseres Jr., Sean Davis, Marc Rzatkowski; Fs Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Daniel Royer.