Olsen looks for DC youngsters to shine under pressure

WASHINGTON – This late in the season, two games in a four-day stretch can be seen as an inconvenience.

For D.C. United, however, it’s an opportunity.

Playing at Philadelphia on Thursday (8:30 pm ET, ESPN2) before a quick turnaround to play at Columbus on Sunday, United face two straight Eastern Conference opponents who sit above them in the standings – giving the club a perfect chance to make their push to the postseason.

“It’s a swing,” head coach Ben Olsen said. “It’s minus three for them, and plus three for us, and vice versa.”

United have enjoyed good results on the road so far this year. Their 5-5-4 record yields the highest point total of any team in the East, and that form will need to be replicated in order to keep pace in the playoff picture.

D.C. are currently just a point out of the 10th and final playoff spot.

“I’m really happy that we’re in the spot we’re in,” Olsen said. “It’s crucial for these young guys to feel this and go through this, a little bit of pressure. And this is part of this process I was hoping we’d be a part of – all these situational things that you go through in a season are a learning experience for our young guys.”

Depending on how these next two games go, the chance to pass both the Union and Columbus Crew in the standings could also be there – with other results going D.C.’s way. Of course, playing four games in close proximity is going to be a challenge for the coaching staff to deal with, especially coming off a week when they played three times in eight days.

“We’re going to need a lot of bodies,” Olsen said. “The good thing, in [the RSL] game, you get guys like [Stephen] King, [Marc] Burch, [Austin] da Luz good minutes and good performances. You increase your pool of guys you know you can rely on.”

No player will be more important, however, than Dwayne De Rosario. The 33-year-old is coming off a massive performance against Real Salt Lake and is going to be pivotal in the final six games of the season.

The good news for United is that the Canadian international said he enjoys playing games close together.

“I like it when the games are like that, fast and furious, Wednesday-Saturday, Wednesday-Saturday because when you’re out here training for the whole week, sometimes it’s long days,” he said. “I like it when you’re in and out, in and out, sharp training sessions, and before you know it you’re preparing for the next match.”

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.