WASHINGTON — As D.C. United prepare for the difficult task ahead of them — win at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night or begin the offseason — coach Ben Olsen knows his priority: Find a replacement for right back Andy Najar.
The 19-year-old was shown a red card in Saturday’s 1-1 draw in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Semifinal series with New York for throwing the ball at the referee. He now must sit out the the second leg.
“He’s a young kid. He made a young mistake,” Olsen said. “I thought [referee Jair Marrufo] let it boil up a little bit with some tough calls against us. That’s no excuse to react that way. But we’ll adjust. It’s what we’ve been doing all year.”
Olsen’s options to fill the position include Daniel Woolard and Robbie Russell.
Woolard hasn’t played since Aug. 4 when he suffered a concussion against Columbus. Before that, he had started 19 straight regular-season matches. On Monday, Woolard told The Washington Times that he is 90-minutes fit.
Russell, who has played a total of 12 minutes since recovering from surgery for plantar fasciitis, also said he’s ready to go.
FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Progress for De Rosario?
As various United players expounded upon the first leg result, captain Dwayne De Rosario, dressed in street clothes, addressed a small group of reporters near the locker room doors on Saturday night.
He was upgraded to questionable on United’s injury report prior to the match and trained with the club again on Monday.
When pressed by the media about whether or not he’d be ready to play Wednesday, De Rosario was cautious with his response.
“Right now, I’m day to day,” he said. “I felt good [in training]. We’ll see [if I’ll be available]. We’ll take it one day at a time.”
Despite having their first home playoff match in five years moved up four days because of Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New York and New Jersey, the black-clad supporters at RFK were rowdy and loud for the full 90 minutes.
“It was the old days. It was great,” Olsen said. “The second I got out of the tunnel, I had chills. I think they were treated to a pretty interesting game. I would have loved to send them home with smiles on their face rather than thoughts of taking out the referees. But it was a great atmosphere. I want to thank them for that, and hopefully we’ll have another chance to play in front of them in a week or two.”
Olsen went on to say that regardless of Wednesday’s result, he won’t cite the venue switch as a reason for D.C.’s season coming to a close.
“If we don’t get through this, I’m not going to blame it on a home-and-away series being changed,” he said. “I won’t do that.”