WASHINGTON – It's tough to find much wrong with a team's striking core when the four main options all have at least four goals through 14 games.
But there is a storm brewing in the nation's capital, as D.C. United manager Ben Olsen will have to start choosing who plays with Maicon Santos and Chris Pontius returning from injury.
Santos and Pontius quickly became United's top choice up top as Hamdi Salihi struggled with form, and Dwayne De Rosario was moved back into midfield to help the United offense. But as recent wins over Colorado and Toronto have proved, with Pontius and Santos out with minor injuries, the Salihi and De Rosario combination is just as potent.
"I don’t prefer any one combo right now," Olsen told MLSsoccer.com this week. "Hamdi and Santos are more of a number nine type player, and then we have a bunch of guys who can play underneath, whether its Wolff, [De Rosario], Pontius, or DeLeon. We have a wealth of talent that can come underneath those two."
Olsen has no qualms about how the injuries that United have suffered through this far this season have actually been beneficial to United. It's forced Olsen to lean on players who would otherwise be role players, allowing Olsen to find the right combinations for later in the season.
United’s wins are just the icing on the cake.
“It’s almost easier now when you have injuries, because your team is depleted, and you don’t have to make as many tough decisions," Olsen added.
With a suddenly-hot New England Revolution team visiting United at RFK Stadium on Saturday (7:30pm ET, watch LIVE online), first place in the Eastern Conference is on the line for the Black-and-Red. They currently sit two points behind the New York Red Bulls – who tied 1-1 at home Wednesday night with Chivas USA and are idle this weekend.
“Every game is different,” Olsen told reporters this week. “We evaluate the opponent, and see which guys are going to work. [Some] venues aren’t going to work for some guys, so there is all this stuff that plays into it.”
With Santos at six goals, Pontius and De Rosario at five, and Salihi with four, somebody deserving of a spot will be left out. But that's just the type of problem that Olsen would love to have.
"When we are fully healthy, it’s going to be a pain in the ass to pick the team,” he added. “That’s a good thing."