Youthful indiscretion hurt D.C. United in its 1-1 playoff opener against New York. Andy Najar, a 19-year-old right back, didn't mean to hit referee Jair Marrufo with a thrown ball as he jogged away after a yellow card-earning tackle in the 71st minute. Marrufo had no choice but to show a red card, too, meaning Najar will be suspended for United's second match at the Red Bulls on Wednesday.
United coach Ben Olsen could go a number of different ways to replace him.
Veteran Robbie Russell, who won an MLS Cup with Real Salt Lake, was signed specifically to upgrade the United defense and started 16 of 19 matches before a foot injury. Defender Daniel Woolard also made 20 starts this year before a concussion, and he has returned to training with a rugby-style helmet. Utility man Lewis Neal also has played in the back but is better suited for the midfield.
All three players bring savvy and toughness. None of them replaces Najar's dynamic attacking ability.
In a silver lining, Najar's absence might accelerate the return of another notable player. Reigning league MVP Dwayne De Rosario, who has been out since the first week of September with a knee injury, was upgraded to questionable late last week.
"Of course you want to play, especially when you see games like this," De Rosario said. "I'm disappointed because [Najar] is a guy that we could really use. But a learning experience for him and a lot of the guys. We take this energy and we go to New York, and we look forward to that game."
- Craig Stouffer