Chabala, returning Najar bolster United ahead of SKC trip
WASHINGTON – With a new face on the backline and a familiar midfielder returning to action, D.C. United’s lineup entering an important match against Sporting Kansas City could have a different look than it did for most of July.
And given that a win in Saturday’s game at Livestrong Sporting Park (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) would pull United within one point of SKC in the Eastern Conference standings, the timing couldn’t be better. Defender Mike Chabala arrived in D.C. on Thursday after being traded by Portland, trained with the club Friday morning and is expected to be part of the gameday on Saturday and may even start.
“Whatever the lineup is and whenever they need me, I’ll be there," Chabala said Friday morning inside RFK Stadium’s media room. "If not, I’ll be pushing the guys in front of me and supporting them."
Meanwhile, 19-year-old midfielder Andy Najar (above), fresh off his stint with the Honduran national team in the Olympics, trained with United all week and drew praise from coach Ben Olsen for his crispness.
“I talked to Andy to make sure he understands that it’s D.C. United time,” Olsen said Thursday. “It looks like he’s happy to be back with the guys and back home. I think the guys are happy to see him. He’s everybody’s little brother in there. They’re proud of him. I think he’s back and ready to fight for us now.”
WATCH: Chabala discusses move to D.C.
The duo bolsters United’s roster on the verge of a pivotal match against a club D.C. haven’t beaten since its rebranding (a 2-1 victory against the then-Wizards on May 5, 2010).
With United left back Daniel Woolard sidelined (concussion) and Chris Korb already filling in for the injured Robbie Russell on the right side, D.C.’s backline needed a boost. Najar might have seen time on the right, with Korb switching to the left for Saturday’s match, had it not been for Thursday’s trade.
Less than 24 hours after the deal was announced, Chabala sounded anxious to immediately help his new club.
“Who wouldn’t want to go play for D.C. United right now?" Chabala said. "There are a lot of amazing things going on and a locker room full of really great footballers."
Sporting, fresh (or perhaps not-so-fresh) off its US Open Cup championship Wednesday, beat United 1-0 on a 93rd-minute goal from C.J. Sapong at RFK Stadium in D.C.’s first match. Regardless of how SKC configure their lineup as a result of the 120-minute marathon victory, Olsen said United’s approach will remain the same against a team that hasn’t won a league match at home since June 16.
“They have a good team speed about them," Olsen said Thursday. "They like to pressure high and get you in bad spots, turn the ball over quickly and get at you with their speed and athleticism up top."
Captain Dwayne De Rosario returned to training Thursday and is expected to play after resting a sore left shoulder he injured in the team’s 1-0 victory against Columbus.