Playoff-chasing DC United to reach deep into bench

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WASHINGTON – Four games, 11 days – and a playoff spot still very much within reach for D.C. United.

The busy and final two weeks of D.C.’s regular season begin on Wednesday in Vancouver (10 pm ET, watch online), and the stretch will force D.C. head coach Ben Olsen to reach deep into his bench.

“It’s going to take more than 11 guys, that’s for sure,” he said last week. “The good thing over the last two weeks is we’ve used some guys that haven’t been regular starters in different positions, and they’ve done pretty well.

“I think our depth has been increased over the last couple weeks. We’re going to need 14, 15, 16 guys over this stretch to come in and help us.”

After the Vancouver game, United close out the season with three straight games at RFK Stadium, facing three playoff contenders in Chicago, Portland and Sporting KC.

Despite the fact D.C. lost their last two games and sit five points outside the final spot, they still feel like they have a final say in their fate. They have two games in hand on six of the other nine playoff hopefuls and one game in hand on the other three.

“Without a doubt, we control our own destiny,” forward Josh Wolff said. “[But] those are just words. You have to go out and demand it from one another and at the end of the day get the result that’s required.

“That’s all that matters right now – young guys, old guys, everybody has to be pulling in the same direction knowing that you’re not in the playoffs until you’re completely in, and you’re not out till you’re completely out.”

Of course, because of the scheduling, the last two weeks of the season will be United's busiest, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

“I think it’s an exciting time for our players and in particular for our young guys,” Olsen said. “It’s vital that they go through this process going through being on the edge of playoffs and trying to fight their way in. It’s a great experience for them and hopefully in the end we can sneak in."

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