WASHINGTON – It’s no surprise, given D.C. United’s gritty style of play since captain Dwayne De Rosario’s injury, that the menacing weather forecast for Wednesday’s second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Red Bull Area (8 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) isn’t shaking the belief within United’s locker room that they can advance.
In fact, it might be strengthening it.
“The weather is going to be pretty nasty from what I hear,” said D.C. leading scorer Chris Pontius, “and I kind of like that. I think our team is built for that.”
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The New York-New Jersey area is predicted to be hit with a mix of rain and snow and heavy winds, which could be strongest right around the 8:21 pm ET kickoff.
Added head coach Ben Olsen: “It’s going to be nasty, which I’m OK with. I like our group with that stuff.”
If the conditions on the pitch become unplayable, MLS is prepared to suspend the match and pick it up where it left off on Thursday.
De Rosario upgraded again
For the second time in as many matches, D.C. United have upgraded De Rosario on the team injury report. This time he's listed as "probable."
Before Saturday’s first leg at RFK Stadium, the 2011 MLS MVP was boosted from "out" to "questionable," but didn’t make the 18-man roster. Now that he is listed as probable, it is a strong possibility that Olsen selects his captain and playmaker to the gameday squad.
But the weather could also play a factor, as it might not be ideal to have De Rosario test his recovering MCL on a slick field. If he returns, it would be roughly three weeks ahead of schedule.
Russell ready to play
As of the conclusion of Tuesday’s training session, Olsen had not made a decision about who will start at right back in place of the suspended Andy Najar.
“We’re still evaluating. We’re still piecing things together,” Olsen said.
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He said he also has considered shifting one of his center backs to the outside and presumably inserting central defender Emiliano Dudar into the lineup.
“Ideally, you want to keep your group together centrally, but we’re still evaluating. Believe me,” the manager said.
Following Tuesday training, veteran Robbie Russell – who has played a total of 12 minutes since returning from plantar fasciitis – said he’s ready to go.
“That’s the beat of the playoffs,” Russell said. “You’re ready for anything. I don’t know if it’s adrenaline. You can’t explain it all the time, but it’s the playoffs and there’s nothing like it. You give it all you’ve got, regardless.”
White injured at training
United will travel with more players than usual for a road match in part so Olsen can have more options for selection to the 18 and in part because if D.C. win, they’d travel directly to Houston for Saturday’s second-round playoff match should the Dynamo advance.
One player who might not be available, however, is defender Ethan White, who was carried off the pitch at RFK on Tuesday after suffering a sprained left ankle.
Nick Cammarota covers D.C. United for MLSsoccer.com.