WASHINGTON — The day it was announced that D.C. United captain Dwayne De Rosario would miss the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury, coach Ben Olsen said he needed "some other guys to raise their game — me included."
Have they — and he — ever.
In eight days, United have won three consecutive matches without De Rosario, their latest a narrow 1-0 victory over Chivas USA at RFK Stadium on Sunday, and Olsen has more than made good on his direction.
“Dumb luck, I suppose,” Olsen said, tongue-in-cheek, following the team's win.
In the 56th minute of Sunday’s match, Olsen slam-dunked his third straight second-half substitution when he brought on midfielder Branko Boskovic for Maicon Santos.
Boskovic scored his first MLS goal eight minutes later — on a diving header, no less — to vault D.C. into a tie for third in the Eastern Conference.
Against Philadelphia on Thursday, Olsen brought on Santos to replace Boskovic in the 57th minute and Santos quickly notched an assist with a beautifully played 45-yard ball to Chris Pontius. Pontius then set up Lionard Pajoy for the game’s only goal.
Against New England last Saturday, the start of United’s three-match winning streak, Olsen replaced Boskovic with Lewis Neal in the 56th minute, and Neal then scored the winner in a 2-1 victory.
This time, instead of coming off, it was Boskovic’s turn to play the hero.
“The last month, everybody play good, everybody take a chance,” Boskovic said. “Last game, Neal come in and score. Then Maicon give a good pass. This is good for team. This is victory of group.”
Boskovic, who earlier in the week had a dust-up in the media regarding his playing time, appeared relieved when speaking about his first goal in 39 MLS matches. Olsen said his pregame decision was between starting Santos or Boskovic because he prefers to have at least one “huge impact piece” available on the bench.
“Even though I’m sure [Boskovic] disagrees with me at times, he’s committed to the guys out there and he’s committed to this organization," said Olsen. "He always has been. I’m happy he was the hero today."
Boskovic played only four matches in 2011 and restructured his contract this year, accepting less money and the loss of his Designated Player tag to remain with D.C.
“I don’t remember last time I score a goal,” Boskovic said. “I’m happy. I don’t know what else to say.”
Whatever residual effects that might have been lingering following Boskovic’s mid-week comments now appear far behind United.
“I know you guys made a meal out of his comments earlier in the week, but to me, that’s just a guy that wants to be on the field and wants to win,” Olsen said. “I thought his attitude all week has been good.”
Boskovic’s teammates were also happy he finally opened his MLS account. That much was visible from their reaction while celebrating on the field and in the locker room.
“Very, very happy for Branko," said United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. "He’s a special talent. He’s played at the highest level. Hats off to him on his goal."
Of course, having not scored in nearly three years, the Serbian’s celebration was naturally a bit rusty.
“Celebration I supposed to go [slide] on my knees, but field is…,” Boskovic said, trailing off. “I stay there and now my knee hurts. Lots of scratches. But it’s OK.”