WASHINGTON -- D.C. United coach Ben Olsen offered a short explanation as to why a healthy Dwayne De Rosario was left out of his struggling team's lineup Saturday night.
"Coach's decision," Olsen said tersely, after watching his side fail to win for a 10th straight game following a 2-0 home loss to the Portland Timbers.
Along with starting Carlos Ruiz days after the veteran forward expressed his frustration at his lack of playing time, Olsen opted to bring De Rosario off the bench, doing so in the 65th minute, with his team already down two goals. De Rosario vented his frustration following the game, saying the reasoning he was given for his demotion was that the two decorated players could not work together on the field. Ruiz was subbed off for Lionard Pajoy in the 71st minute, meaning the two overlapped for all of six minutes.
"Surprised is not the word," De Rosario said. "[Olsen] didn't think that me and Carlos can play on the same field together, so that's what it is.
"I think if you look at our track record as goal scorers, as creators, I think it's not a bad problem to try at least once."
The 35-year-old De Rosario's 101 goals are sixth-most in MLS history, while the 33-year-old Ruiz's 88 are ninth-most. With D.C. scoring just six goals all season -- averaging a league-worst 0.5 goals per game -- an unhappy De Rosario being miffed at Olsen's lineup omission is the latest negative mark on what has been a forgettable first 12 games of the season.
"It depends what Ben wants, because we are not young like a couple years ago," Ruiz said. "If he wants us to run up and down, up and down, it's going to be a little bit difficult. It depends on him and what he sees from the team."
D.C. managed to excel last fall when De Rosario was out injured, but the circumstances surrounding the team have changed considerably. Mired at 1-9-2 and falling even further behind the competition in the Eastern Conference, D.C. players had to come to grips with their captain's exclusion from the lineup despite any personal feelings on the matter there might be.
"De Ro is De Ro, go ahead and look at his numbers and look what he's produced in his career," D.C. attacker Chris Pontius said. "It's just the coaching staff trying to switch things up."
Despite being shut out for a seventh time this season and De Rosario not starting, D.C. received a solid contribution from Ruiz, who turned in his longest outing of the season. He nearly made an early impact, working a give-and-go with Pontius with a nice back-heel pass and then firing on goal after receiving the return pass only to have Donovan Ricketts make a lunging save to his left in the 12th minute.
Ruiz was at it again in the 42nd minute, receiving a pass from Nick DeLeon on the right wing and serving a dangerous cross through the area, one that Jack Jewsbury was able to get to by the far post to cut out the D.C. threat. Ruiz also served a layoff pass for Pontius in the 66th minute, one that the 2012 MLS Best XI performer fired over the bar for his final contribution before being substituted off.
"Everyone else has gotten a shot on this team," Olsen said. "He deserved it, and I thought he did well. For 45-50 minutes I thought he brought some real soccer up there. I think he held up some balls, and I thought he had a real positive match, and I'm happy that he got out on the field. He's knocked on my door numerous times saying, 'Give me a chance.' It certainly wasn't on him tonight."
With Olsen changing up his lineup, giving Ruiz a chance, omitting De Rosario and witnessing very little change, he reiterated his intention to sign new players to help augment his options.
"We're going to get new guys in here, because we're not good enough." Olsen said. "It seems like we're always a player or two short every time I fill out my starting lineup."
One of those left out Saturday happened to be the club's marquee name and stated leader.
"There's talent in this locker room," De Rosario said. "But I don't know if we're using the talent to the best of its abilities."