WASHINGTON — D.C. United’s players and coaches spent Sunday afternoon rubbing shoulders with their most ardent fans, as the team’s season-ticket holder meet-and-greet provided a unique opportunity for fans and members of the team to connect.
To the media in attendance, though, the event provided an opportunity to gather information, most notably an update on a trio of injured United players: Designated Player Eddie Johnson, US national team center back Steve Birnbaum and fellow USMNTer Bill Hamid.
Hamid — who was forced to decline an invitation to Jurgen Klinsmann’s January USMNT camp due to a nagging shoulder injury — is nearing full fitness, and United head coach Ben Olsen plans to get him back in the fold soon.
“Bill is fine, he’s trained the past two days. We could’ve played him against Malmo FF [on Friday], but we chose not to,” said Olsen. “We’re just being smart. We didn’t want to risk it with his back and shoulder. Once Austin hits, he’ll be ready to go full out.”
Hamid’s back-up, former Chicago Fire 'keeper Andrew Dykstra, has also made significant progress in camp while recovering from a ruptured achilles suffered during a friendly against Fulham last summer. On Sunday, Olsen suggested Dykstra would also be ready to go by the time the team takes part in preseason action in Austin, Texas later this week.
Birnbaum’s knock is more recent, a knee injury picked up in USMNT camp late last week. It was an unfortunate setback for the Cal grad, who’d earned largely positive reviews in his first national team appearance against Chile several days earlier.
“We haven’t evaluated him, but from what we here it’s a very, very minor MCL tweak, no fibers have been torn so that’s usually a 10- to 14-day injury,” said Olsen, who confirmed that Birnbaum would likely miss United’s two matches in Austin. A Feb. 20 encounter with FC Dallas — United’s last pre-season tune-up prior to resuming CONCACAF Champions League play on the 26th — is the target date for Birnbaum's return to action.
- Get more D.C. United news at DCUnited.com
As for Johnson, the former Seattle Sounders forward is sidelined indefinitely with an unspecified health issue, one most believe is related to a pre-existing heart condition. Johnson was unavailable for comment on Sunday, and the club has declined to go into detail. The club hopes to have more information in the next week or two.
Even if Johnson is given the go-ahead to play, Johnson will need to regain his fitness. Olsen mentioned on Sunday that the forward has been de-conditioned purposefully for the sake of some of his medical testing.
“My concern is for Eddie,” said Olsen. "It’s not about us at this point. We just have to wait and see what the news is when he goes to this last appointment, and then we’ll deal with it from there. If he’s good to go, great, we’ll work him back into fitness. If not, he’ll have to go a different road.
“Hopefully he’s OK and we can start moving him back into fitness.”