WASHINGTON – When D.C. United return to Red Bull Arena for the first time since their dramatic Eastern Conference semifinals victory against New York last season, they’ll bring with them a game-changer. Literally.
After missing the final nine matches of the 2012 regular season and all-but 28 minutes of the playoffs, United captain Dwayne De Rosario is back.
United’s playmaker is fully recovered from his MCL sprain and eligible to play Saturday after he missed the first two games of the year while serving a suspension for a preseason altercation against Philadelphia (12:30 pm ET, NBC, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Following Thursday’s training session, United coach Ben Olsen had a little fun while discussing the impact of De Rosario’s return.
“You think I’m going to start De Ro? After missing two games?” Olsen said with a smirk. “We’ll see if he makes the 18.”
What United really will be anxious to see is how smoothly their captain rejoins the fold and potentially jumpstarts an offense that’s scored one goal in two matches.
“You could just tell by the way he is in the locker room for the last couple of games that he wants to be out there,” said United attacker Chris Pontius. “Obviously every single one of us would take him on the field. We’ve got to find him early on in this game and get him the ball as much as we can to get him comfortable.”
Indeed, it’s been a while since United played with the 2011 MLS MVP, and during that time they’ve morphed into a stingy defensive club. So will D.C.’s offense take off once De Rosario returns?
“We missed him the two past games,” said United center back Dejan Jakovic. “He looks good and I think he’s excited to step on the field and guide us. I feel like maybe offensively we’ve been struggling a little bit. I definitely think he’s the key to get us going and create some chances.”
De Rosario scored seven goals and assisted 12 more last year in 25 starts before his second year in D.C. came to an end.
“We have Dwayne back now to create a spark in the middle,” said United winger Nick DeLeon. “We’ll have chances. It’s just whether we can finish them or not.”