D.C. United practice report: more injuries test depth

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Penalty Kicks,Sports,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

D.C. United once had depth as an option. Then it went to depth as necessity. By the time Wednesday’s match against visiting Colorado comes around, it’ll be depth as crisis management after both Perry Kitchen (knee) and Chris Pontius (gluteal muscule) were added to the casualty list in Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Houston.

The status of both players remains in question, with the team awaiting results of an MRI for Kitchen and the potential of no official stance on Pontius until Tuesday, when the bi-weekly injury report comes out.

Monday’s training session started with an encouraging hint that United (5-4-3) could have a number of injured players back in the mix to compensate for the latest loss. Emiliano Dudar (hamstring), Nick DeLeon (hamstring), Marcelo Saragosa (calf) and Dejan Jakovic (ankle) all took part in the first half of the session fully. But when the group went to small-sided games at the end of the session, Jakovic participated while the other three only ran laps. That would suggest that Dudar, DeLeon and Saragosa are all unlikely to play against the Rapids (5-5-0) unless coach Ben Olsen decides he has no other choice. Winless Toronto FC (0-8-0) arrives on Saturday.

“We have to see how they respond tomorrow and weigh the risks of playing them too early or whether or not some of them are ready,” Olsen said.

Jakovic said he’s day-to-day.

“It feels a lot better cutting, running forward is good,” he said. “We’ll see. Yeah, a little fatigued, not feeling a hundred percent fit, but it takes time.”

DeLeon said he wants to play against the Rapids but pegged his return to around a week or less. He didn’t recall any specific play that led to his strain, only that it happened over the course of the second half against San Jose on May 2 – the rookie’s eighth straight start.

“It could’ve been,” DeLeon when asked if it was a result of how much he’d played. “The legs are tired, fatigued, then finally a little strain came. That’s my guess anyway.”

Olsen similarly had put Pontius in the starting lineup in six straight contests following his dramatic game-winning goal against New England on April 14 - Hamdi Salihi has either not played or come off the bench during that entire stretch.

“It probably needs rest, but we haven’t had that luxury to rest him at this point,” Olsen said when asked about Pontius. “Now, we might have to. Again, we’ll evaluate all this stuff tomorrow, bring everybody in and see which ones can walk, which ones can run.”

Olsen laughed off the notion that he could sign himself to a short-term contract – “I’ve been trying to talk upper management into that for 2½ years now,” he said – but he might consider recalling Conor Shanosky from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers if United’s injury situation gets any worse.

“At some point, for sure, if it got out of hand to the point where we needed some bodies,” Olsen said. “I’m trying not to because Conor’s in a good rhythm over there, and he’s really getting invaluable experience that is crucial right now for his development. Bringing him back for a week or two isn’t going to kill his development, but I’m trying not to.”

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Craig Stouffer

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner