D.C. United’s Paul Arriola, a standout winger who tore his right ACL in preseason, might return before the end of MLS’s protracted regular season, Coach Ben Olsen said Thursday.

In a limited role, Arriola has reintegrated into team workouts and is “on track to hopefully get some minutes this year as it goes down into the stretch,” Olsen said.

Arriola, 25, has been sidelined since mid-February, when he got hurt during a friendly at training camp in Florida. He is about seven months into a recovery that figured to last nine months, give or take several weeks.

Had the regular season taken place on the planned timetable, ending Oct. 4, he would not have been in position to play. But because of the pandemic shutdown and the resumption of play in home markets last month, the campaign will continue until Nov. 8, followed by the playoffs.

United (2-4-4) has 13 matches left, starting Saturday against the visiting New York Red Bulls (3-5-2).

“It’s been inspiring to watch him in the weight room and he is out on the field in a neutral capacity” during workouts, Olsen said. “It’s nice to have him with the guys and his energy.”

With hope Arriola could return, United decided to not place him on the season-ending injury list, which affords teams an additional roster slot and payroll space.

The U.S. national team candidate has posted 14 goals and 12 assists since joining United late in the 2017 season. United has badly missed his energy, versatility and attacking prowess. During his recovery, Arriola signed a contract extension.

He was the first of two starters to suffer ACL injuries this year; defensive midfielder Felipe Martins went down last week.

Defender Oniel Fisher, who missed the entire 2019 season recovering from a torn ACL and complications, has spoken regularly with Arriola about the rehabilitation process.

“It would be great for him to get back and also for the team to get him back,” Fisher said. “With the ACL, you never know. He probably needs more time than he thinks he does. He just needs to take his time.

“The rush is really not important. The most important thing is getting healthy and making sure you are in the right state of mind to get back out there mentally.”

Russell Canouse ‘still a little bit away,’ Ben Olsen says

United’s injury crisis has eased, with defender Frédéric Brillant back in the lineup the past two matches and his backline partner, captain Steven Birnbaum, day-to-day after missing three matches.

However, defender-midfielder Russell Canouse (hamstring) is “still a little bit away,” Olsen said. He will sit out his fourth game Saturday.

Attacker Edison Flores, sidelined since Aug. 25 with a facial fracture and concussion, seems at least a month from returning. The initial timetable was four to six weeks. “He is going to be on the longer end, but that could turn quickly,” said Olsen, adding Flores is having headaches. …

Estonian forward Erik Sorga, who scored the winning goal against the Red Bulls on Sept. 2 and didn’t play Sunday, could end up getting substantial minutes with second-division Loudoun United in the coming weeks, people close to the situation said.

Ola Kamara and Gelmin Rivas are vying for the starting job at striker, leaving Sorga as a second-half option.

The other issue prompting a possible move is the number of international players on the active roster. United is fine at the moment (four players in four available slots), but acquiring another or reactivating Flores would necessitate adjustments. Sending Sorga, 21, to Loudoun for regular playing time is one option.

United’s spare international roster slot was traded to Montreal this week for $225,000 of general allocation money ($75,000 this year, $150,000 next year).

“We still believe in Sorga,” Olsen said. “He is a young guy who needs to get some experience, as well.” ...

Barring last-minute changes, United will begin the next phase of the schedule Sept. 19 at home against Toronto FC, which, because of Canadian travel restrictions, would arrive on the day of the match and return after the game. United is also slated to visit Nashville on Sept. 23 and host New England on Sept. 27.

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