WASHINGTON — For a team that seems to face a spate of never-ending injury problems, things have been looking up lately for D.C. United.
Hitting the halfway point of their season on Saturday, DC continue to manage minutes and training levels in an effort to keep players healthy. During Wednesday’s training session, several regulars were given a lighter load, with a reserve-heavy side going through the motions.
A few injured players were back, meanwhile, and are all slowly creeping towards full fitness.
“We’re not all the way there, but we’re getting closer to having a lot more options,” assistant coach Chad Ashton said. “It makes training a lot more competitive and it’s good to have bodies and options on the weekend.”
DC were able to use Sunday’s reserve match — a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union — to give a number of players coming off injuries a chance to go 90 minutes. Striker Joseph Ngwenya (MCL sprain) was able to play and scored twice, and midfielder Kurt Morsink and defender Marc Burch also saw valuable minutes.
Burch, at one time the team’s starting left back, hasn’t played in a league outing since April 29, struggling with a hamstring injury. He played 45 minutes in the reserve game and is inching closer to full fitness. Center back Dejan Jakovic, who picked up a hamstring injury while away on international duty at the beginning of June, could also make his return in a couple of weeks.
“Dejan’s back running, getting some touches in here and there,” Ashton said.
While DC only have the league to focus on in the summer months of the season, that will help keep players fresh and healthy during the trying stretch.
“The more you start to string games back-to-back-to-back, not only are guys getting tired, they’re becoming more prone to injuries on the weekend,” Ashton said. “To have more options and be able to rotate three or four guys on the weekend is a big advantage.”
It’s not all good news, however. Oft-injured defender Jed Zayner picked up a knee injury last week in training that required surgery on Friday, and he’s now scheduled to miss another six weeks.
Branko Boskovic remains on the long-term injury shelf as he continues his recovery from an ACL tear, while Santino Quaranta and Devon McTavish are also out indefinitely with concussions. During Sunday’s reserve game, defender Brandon Barklage suffered a concussion of his own and is now out as well.
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.