Return of Nick DeLeon, Chris Pontius has DC United's Ben Olsen breathing easier: "We're almost there"
WASHINGTON – When D.C. United take the field Saturday at RFK Stadium to face Portland (7 pm ET, Univision Deportes / Watch on MLS Live), it likely will be the first time since the Week 4 that Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon are both in the starting XI.
For a team that only last weekend snapped a club-record seven-match losing streak, that development is clearly a positive as United look for their first win since March 9.
“It’s going to be nice to see them back on the field together,” Olsen said after Friday’s training session. “They’re two big pieces. As we add more players that are capable of getting us results, it helps. We need to get healthy and we’re almost there.”
With United’s star players healthy and rounding into form, Olsen hopes that will translate into more potency in the attack. Whether DeLeon plays in central midfield for the second straight week or shifts back to the wing remains to be seen. Pontius, meanwhile, was able to get a full week of training under his belt ahead of Saturday’s match.
Of course, the roster isn’t entirely healed: The versatile Lewis Neal will be missing for six to eight weeks after groin and abdominal surgery. Midfielder John Thorrington continues to work his way back from an MCL sprain, Marcelo Saragosa is recovering from surgery, Rafael recently suffered a concussion in training and Dejan Jakovic is dealing with a groin injury.
“He gutted through the game [last] week,” Olsen said of Jakovic, who will be a game-time decision. “He had something he got through that bothered him earlier this week and now we’re going to gauge where he’s at.”
Against Portland, D.C. will be facing a team that employs a 4-3-3 for the second straight week.
“Portland definitely pressures well,” United midfielder Perry Kitchen said. “They’re free to go in different places. Sometimes areas can get over-crowded, but both [Portland and Kansas City] are very good teams that we’ve played in the past couple weeks.”
Nick Cammarota covers D.C. United for MLSsoccer.com.