Tampa Bay Sports Day

Olsen expects to use full roster during first three-game week

No one at DC United would ever admit it publicly and through the years they have given it the proper lip service, but recently, the tone of their very well selected words and their body language are all pointing to next Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup match against Columbus as a far bigger priority than the two upcoming ones surrounding it, all next week. But with an MLS play off berth only a pipe dream at this point, why not?

United starts a tough three game stretch of matches this Sunday night with a tilt against Chivas USA at Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, fly back Monday, train on Tuesday in preparation for that critical U.S. Open Cup semifinal home match with the Crew, who they will also play the following Saturday in a league match.

“We all know it’s there,” said United midfielder Chris Pontius referring to the U.S. Open Cup match. “But we have to take one game at a time and we have to use these league games to get better as well as a team and pick up some points. It’s been a tough year but I do think the Open Cup game is a big game for us.”

This is the first time United coach Ben Olsen will deal with a three-game week as a coach and he completely understands that every healthy body will need to make a contribution regardless of the situation.

“Everyone is going to need to see minutes in the next week and a half that’s for sure,” said Olsen after Tuesday’s training session. “I have told the guys that and to start preparing themselves, especially some of the guys who haven’t gotten a lot of minutes, to see real game time and I think they will be up for the challenge and I think we got a lot of guys champing at the bit to play too.”

But in regards to Wednesday’s match Olsen said after a slight pause, “It’s certainly something to think about but we’ll gauge accordingly but right now it’s still about working on some of the things we need to work on right now and we can deal with that later in the week.”

United as an organization has always coveted trophies and the opportunity to play in international competitions and winning the U.S. Open cup will accommodate both of these items. Should they win the title, they will automatically qualify for next year’s CONCACAF Champion’s League.

Other than a quick exit in 2007 with a loss at Harrisburg City (PA), United have made deep runs in the Open Cup in recent years, defeating the Charleston Battery for the title in 2008 and losing in the final last year to Seattle FC, both at home.

Should United defeat Columbus, they would either host Chivas USA on Wednesday October 6 at RFK Stadium or travel to Qwest Field on October 5 to face Seattle.

“I am sure he is going to try get some minutes for the guys who haven’t played much. Then you gotta look to balance too, at this point, what really matters,” added a perhaps not so subtle Jaime Moreno. “All games are treated the same way with the same expectations so whoever is out there I am sure the coaches and players are expecting them to do the job.”

It’s these segments of an already crowded schedule where the abundance of injuries and relative inexperience of many of the player’s rear are key factors in the decisions and tactics.

After Sunday’s match, Branko Boskovic will fly directly from Los Angeles to Montenegro to join his national team for two Euro 2012 qualifying matches at home against Wales on September 3 and September 7 at Bulgaria. He will return for United’s September 11 match at Toronto.

Pontius (hamstring strain) and Carey Talley (groin strain) are both day-to-day with their respective injuries. Talley was initially hurt in United’s 3-1 loss at home two weeks ago, also coming out of the game with sore ribs after an awkward fall in a challenge with Brek Shea in the second half.

Clyde Simms (calf strain) is probable while Juan Manuel Pena (quad strain) took a cortisone shot to get him through the final stages of his recovery.

Many of the players who have returned in recent weeks are defenders, which is where the team currently has the most depth. Olsen will most likely need to give some time to Jordan Graye, whose rash of unfortunate turnovers cost United dearly in loses at home in mid-July to Los Angeles and Seattle.

“These guys always go through a little bit of a bad patch. Jordan happened to be starting every game because we needed to have him on the field during kind of his wall so to speak and he was also playing on the left side which is an unnatural position for him so in a lot of way it was a very tough, tough test,” said Olsen about the former United Academy player.

“We asked a lot of Jordan Graye. We still believe in Jordan and we think he is going to be a good talent but right now he needs a lot of training and training games…he knows he is not out of the loop and you can tell he is starting to respond and get his form back after that little rough patch he had.”