WASHINGTON – D.C. United will need all the help they can get if they’re to crawl out of the hole they currently find themselves in during the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T.
After a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, D.C. face the same trio of injury question marks they did last week: What part, if any, can Luis Silva, Chris Rolfe and Sean Franklin play in Saturday’s Eastern Conference Semifinals return leg (2:30 pm ET, NBC)?
Rolfe was among a few bright spots in United’s performance on Sunday, entering as a late substitute and looking energetic during his quarter hour shift. His appearance against the Red Bulls was his first in nearly two months – the former Chicago Fire playmaker went down in early September with a broken left arm.
"The second he gets on the field, we’re a better soccer team,” United head coach Ben Olsen said. “He has real ideas, his composure is good – and he has one arm.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Rolfe reflected on his progress over the past weeks and just where he’s at heading into Saturday’s showdown.
"I feel good,” Rolfe told MLSsoccer.com. “But the minutes that I played were still all just adrenaline at that point so it’s really hard to determine what my fitness level is. But I feel fine.”
Asked whether he could push his cameo appearance on Sunday into something more substantial – maybe 60 minutes – on Saturday, Rolfe seemed a bit more reserved.
"Probably not," said Rolfe. "We’re going to test that out this week and kind of see where I am."
If Rolfe regains enough fitness to play a substantial role, Olsen has several options. He could play him out wide, moving starting midfielder Chris Pontius up top alongside Fabian Espindola and using Eddie Johnson as a late-game sub. A less likely scenario would be to plug Rolfe in directly for Johnson; Rolfe and Espindola combined phenomenally during their only start as a forward pairing against the Dynamo in May, a 2-0 victory that saw each walk away with a goal and an assist.
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As for Silva, his status as a starter for Saturday seems a bit iffier. Though the former Toronto FC forward suggested that he was feeling little discomfort from the hamstring that’s kept him sidelined for the past three weeks, Olsen seemed to imply – indirectly – that the team’s leading scorer might find time off the bench.
"I might make some changes,” said Olsen. "We might alter some things; we still got to evaluate where everybody’s at [fitness-wise]. The good thing is that we will have a lot of guys available that can help us on the offensive end in a game where we need to score some goals.
"You don’t need to get those two goals in the first half. This is more of a slow burn.”
Several of United’s regulars didn’t participate fully in the club's session on Tuesday, par for the course given the quick turnaround. Franklin, the former LA Galaxy fullback who’s been a staple all year in United’s reshaped back line, did, however.
Franklin didn’t get the nod on Sunday, appearing as a second-half substitute while recovering from hamstring tightness. On Tuesday, Olsen said Franklin was “100 percent.” He’ll likely start Franklin in place of Chris Korb or Taylor Kemp.