WASHINGTON – With their US Open Cup victory on Oct. 1 behind them and the MLS playoffs long out of the picture, D.C. United coach Ben Olsen hasn’t been shy about the fact that the final month of the season would be used as an evaluation period for his players and staff.
Now, with two matches remaining starting with a trip to Sporting Kansas City on Friday (8 pm ET, NBCSN), Olsen may be forced to select his starters along the back line more out of necessity than evaluation.
With the recent announcements that center backs Ethan White and Dejan Jakovic, as well as midfielder John Thorrington, would miss the remainder of the season, Olsen has started Perry Kitchen at center back for the previous two matches. Kitchen, United’s stalwart in the defensive midfield and club leader in minutes, said after Wednesday’s training session he prefers a midfield role, but will play wherever his team needs him.
“It’s just more of a thinking position [at center back], being in the right spots, playing simple out of the back,” Kitchen told reporters on Wednesday. “I’ve done it before, so it’s nothing new. They see me right now at center back with injuries, personnel, so that’s where I’ll play.”
Olsen said as much after last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Philadelphia, citing that Kitchen was playing there out of necessity. As if an already injury-riddled season wouldn’t be complete without a few more games of mixing and matching.
“Perry has all the qualities you want in a center back,” Olsen said after the draw. “Focus, concentration, physicality and calmness on the ball. He certainly could be an option there, but I also really like him in that holding midfield spot. It’s a luxury to have a guy who can play both.”
Also on Olsen’s radar along the backline for his club’s final two outings could be outside back Dennis Iapichino, who was acquired in August after he was released by Montreal. He started for the second time in a D.C. kit against Philly and played the whole game.
Iapichino also said he apologized to his teammates for getting beat to a cross by Jack McInerney, who scored the equalizer in the 90th minute for Philly.
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“I told the team, ‘Sorry, I can do better there,’” he said Wednesday. “Now we have to do our best Friday against Kansas City. It’s a good opportunity. I want to show how I can help the team and how I play. I want to do my best.”
That game also marks United’s final chance to win an MLS match on the road this season. They’ll also need to win one of their final two games to ensure at least a tie for the fewest wins in MLS history.
Said Iapichino: “Now we have to watch forward for next year and we have to play for the club, for the fans and for everybody else.”