Fresh off its first win at New England since 2007, D.C. United will again be after consecutive victories for the first time since 2009. The Black and Red host the expansion Montreal Impact Wednesday at R.F.K. Stadium.
Fresh is a relative term. Uniteds win over the Revolution just happened on Saturday, but so much has changed since then. Before the game United head coach Ben Olsen seemed to have a surplus of options at every position. Now Olsens puzzle is to figure out the starting eleven.
Defensive midfielder Marcelo Saragosa remains in Brazil for his fathers funeral. Saragosa had to leave the team in Boston after learning of his fathers death and Perry Kitchen assumed his starting role. Emiliano Dudar missed the game with a hamstring injury and fellow central defender Dejan Jakovic suffered an ankle injury in the game.
Dudar was back at training on Tuesday, but it is unclear if he will be match fit. Jakovic has a sprained ankle and is not expected to play Wednesday. If Dudar doesnt play, it would seem likely that Chris Korb, who earned praise from Olsen for his work off the bench Saturday, would be involved at either right or left back.
When Korb came on for the injured Jakovic, Robbie Russell moved into the middle of the defense. Olsens other option might be to move Perry Kitchen back from defensive midfield to form a partnership with Brandon McDonald. In that scenario, Stephen King would be the likely choice to fill Kitchens role.
We believe in our subs, Olsen said after the 2-1 win over New England. No matter who we start we think we have a group off the bench that can really change the game
Those substitutes for United could be switched into starting roles Wednesday against Montreal. Along with potential defensive changes because of injuries, it would not be out of the realm of possibility to see Chris Pontius start at forward. Pontius came on for the final 11 minutes against New England and scored the game winner,
Its been tough for me coming off the bench, Pontius said. Ideally, I want to start. I think every player wants to start every game. You have to realize where youre at sometimes with your body. I mean, I was rusty the first couple of games. Im still finding the touch and everything and getting fitness. Being a sub has forced me to work harder to get back into it.
Pontius is coming back from the broken leg suffered last September against Chivas USA in Uniteds last road win before Saturday. In the first two games of the year Pontius started on the left flank opposite Andy Najar. Rookie Nick De Leon replaced Pontius and Najar lost his spot to Danny Cruz while away for Olympic qualifying with Honduras.
It is possible Pontius could find his way back into the first eleven as the selection over designated player Hamdi Salihi. In five games at forward Salihi has yet to score and appeared to be pressing on Saturday against New England. Olsen has said that he needs to be patient with Salihi and is confident the goals will come.
Goals have been coming against the Impact despite the veteran presence of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. In seven games the Impact has conceded a league leading 14 goals. The Impacts only points have come in its two home games at Olympic Stadium, a win against Toronto FC and a tie with Chicago.
The Impact has cobbled together six goals on the season and have alternated Justin Braun and Serie A veteran Bernardo Corradi at target forward. Corradi is one of six different Impact players to score including former United midfielder Justin Mapp who remains dangerous out wide. Davy Arnaud is the Impacts central attacking force in midfield.
There is one more question for Olsen to decide on before Wednesdays match. Bill Hamid is ready to get back in goal. While Hamid was away on Olympic qualifying and then sidelined with an ankle injury, Joe Willis performed well. Willis again did the job Saturday in New England with Hamid healthy and on the bench.