WASHINGTON – As D.C. United prepare for the first playoff game in the nation’s capital in five years, it’s hard to know how the side's young players will respond to performing on the big stage.
Of the 11 players who started the club’s final regular-season match against Chicago, only two have played in the postseason: Brandon McDonald (three games) and Marcelo Saragosa (eight). All 11, and more, will have that chance Saturday night (8 pm ET, NBCSN, MLS LIVE in NY/NJ/CT, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) against the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of their playoff series, ready or not.
“They’ve got more World Cup games than I think we have playoff games,” United coach Ben Olsen said of New York following Thursday’s lengthy training session. “It’s a great group. They’ve put together a star-studded lineup, and they’re playing very well right now.”
Indeed, Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill alone have more World Cup matches under their belts than United’s players have MLS playoff starts. But that shouldn’t necessarily mean the Red Bulls will run away with the series. Far from it.
Especially considering that United are unbeaten at home in 16 matches, haven’t lost in their previous seven and have embraced Olsen’s defense-first mentality following captain Dwayne De Rosario’s injury. His players all have committed and while it hasn’t always been pretty soccer, the results are impossible to argue against.
“We’ve got a big job ahead of us. No question,” Olsen said. “We’ve got a good group and sometimes that gets you through and gets you past teams that have good individuals. I think that’s what this is about right now. It’s a team versus some really experienced good individuals, and we’ll see what ends up happening.”
DeRo ready to go?
Another bit of positive news came out of United camp Friday evening when De Rosario was upgraded from out to questionable for Saturday’s match. It’s the first time since Sept. 11 that De Rosario was listed as something other than out.
De Rosario has been training lightly with the team throughout the week, but hasn’t trained and full speed and still appears somewhat limited.