One of the two Designated Players on D.C. United’s revamped 2012 roster, midfielder Branko Boskovic’s health and fitness level could hold the key to whether or not the Black-and-Red end their four-year postseason drought.
Acquired by United in June 2010, Boskovic has only played in 17 matches for the club, including four last season before tearing his ACL in a US Open Cup match against New England last April. He hasn’t scored a goal or assisted on a goal during the regular season of his United career.
Perhaps that’s why his assist on Maicon Santos’ 13th-minute goal in D.C.’s 3-1 victory against the Charleston Battery in the Carolina Challenge Cup last week was so encouraging.
“I feel good, I feel alive,” Boskovic told MLSsoccer.com over the phone from Charleston, S.C. “I love the team. I think there are some very good players. I’m very happy to be with this group.”
Since arriving in D.C., Boskovic’s conditioning has long been a topic of discussion and led to coaches benching him at the start of last year. This preseason, the 31-year-old Montenegrin said his left knee is “100-percent” healthy, but he’s still working on his fitness. He had a minor setback when the team was training in Phoenix, and missed six days of training with a calf injury.
“I missed a couple of days in Arizona and I need to work a lot on my fitness,” he said. “I will see how long I can play and for how many minutes. Still, I don’t know. But for the first game, I will be ready.”
Having a healthy Boskovic in the midfield should drastically change the look of United’s side. Following his injury last season, D.C. morphed into a counterattacking team. That shouldn’t be the case this year with a number of talented players up top complementing a deep midfield, specifically United’s other Designated Player, Albanian striker Hamdi Salihi.
It also can't hurt that the two are already familiar with each other from playing together with Rapid Vienna.
“His job is to score goals,” Boskovic said of Salihi. “In Austria, he was unbelievable. He scored in almost every game. He was a really good forward, and I think he’ll continue to be.”
Boskovic played 45 minutes against the Battery in D.C.’s final preseason match before First Kick, but said before that match that he expected to play longer. It will be interesting to see how many minutes he records in United’s season opener against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, the beginning of a highly anticipated season in the nation’s capital.
“When I came here, they told me that [D.C. United] is a big club,” Boskovic said. “Now we must prove this thing on the field and we must be like one family. I think we have a big chance this year to go to the playoffs and win. Everybody must believe and work hard.”