WASHINGTON – At this point of the season, most Designated Players in MLS are not playing for their contracts. But that is exactly the situation Branko Boskovic finds himself in, with just six weeks left on his original two-year deal with D.C. United.
Having come over in 2010 from Rapid Wien, Boskovic was brought in to a United side that was on its way to setting futility records in MLS. Boskovic didn't set the league alight during his first half season, and his 2011 campaign was derailed by an injury sustained in an US Open Cup match. Now, his his fate with United is up to the coaching staff and front office.
“We have a lot to evaluate," United manager Ben Olsen told reporters this week. "That’s a long time, especially with how many games we have. Branko has been great; he’s a great pro and we are going to rely on him in this next month-and-a-half for sure.”
On Wednesday night, Boskovic was given a rare opportunity to start, in the tilt against the Colorado Rapids. The Montenegrin international made the most of his opportunity, playing 70 minutes, and contributing throughout in United's 2-0 win.
“I was hungry and I haven’t played [in a] long time," Boskovic told reporters after the game. "I want to use every chance that they give to me, and I give thanks to the staff because they have given me this chance.”
Boskovic's contract can be extended or canceled at the beginning of July, which means his every move on and off the field will be scrutinized for the next month-and-a-half. And while Olsen seems to be a big fan of the midfielder, the front office might not be too keen to keep the contract of a Designated Player who is outside of Olsen's starting 11.
With two games in the next week – starting with Saturday's visit from Toronto FC (7:30 pm ET, TSN2, MLS LIVE) – Boskovic will likely see some more playing time based both on merit from his performance against Colorado and the fact that Olsen has rotated his squad recently due to injuries and fatigue. One teammate who would love to see Boskovic more playing time is striker Hamdi Salihi, a former teammate of Boskovic's at Rapid Wien, and who was vouched for by Boskovic.
“[Dwayne De Rosario] and Branko are great players and it’s not difficult to play with them because they can find you everywhere," Salihi said after the Colorado win. "It’s always good to play with players like this. I’m especially happy for Branko because he is coming back and he played a great game. He deserves this because he is working hard everyday and he is a good player.”
Boskovic himself has been coy about his situation with United, and whether or not he will continue with the Black-and-Red once his original contract runs its course in six weeks' time. But after the game on Wednesday, it certainly seemed as if he was angling to stay in the nation's capital.
“Sometimes in soccer you need to be lucky," he said. "We will see [about the contract]. I give my best every practice, and every game, so we will see."