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United points to Boskovic's fitness for limiting playing time

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

Losing injured Dwayne De Rosario for the season has exposed D.C. United's continued discomfort with Branko Boskovic. The Montenegrin midfielder is United's most creative playmaker aside from De Rosario, but he was substituted barely 10 minutes into the second half of United's 2-1 win over New England on Saturday.

The move worked, as Boskovic's replacement, journeyman Lewis Neal, scored the game-winning goal. But making a substitution that early is tantamount to telling Boskovic he shouldn't have started in the first place.

"Well, one, he's not that fit," United coach Ben Olsen said. "He's not 90-minutes fit."

It's the same refrain used for nearly all of Boskovic's three-year tenure in Washington -- to the point where it's curious United plays him at all (and why they recently re-signed him for another season).

If Boskovic is unfit, then he's unfit. If he isn't, there's almost nothing he can do to change the staff's opinion. Olsen's preference for work rate over upside is clear.

D.C. United is 6-3-1 this season when Boskovic is in the starting lineup, but he's played 90 minutes just once. United also has lost the last two games Neal has started and won five of the last six when he's come off the bench.

Olsen's next choice comes when United (13-10-5) travels to Philadelphia (7-13-6) on Thursday. Although if he really wanted to be radical, he'd try Andy Najar as the No. 10. Boskovic is the obvious pick, but he can't be at his best looking over his shoulder at a coaching staff waiting for the first excuse to replace him.

- Craig Stouffer

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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