DC United will miss De Rosario

BY Kyle McCarthy • September 14, 2012

Nerves were already jangling in the D.C. United camp with a once expected playoff berth now firmly in peril. And then one tackle during a World Cup qualifier in Panama City on Tuesday night turned concern into panic.

United lynchpin and reigning Major League Soccer MVP Dwayne De Rosario is expected to miss the next 10-12 weeks after sustaining a grade III MCL sprain in his left knee in the early stages of Canada's 2-0 defeat to Panama, the club announced Thursday.

De Rosario's injury offers a potentially killer blow to United's tenuous playoff hopes. De Rosario won't win a second straight MVP despite another stellar campaign (seven goals and 12 assists in 26 appearances), but he remains one of the most influential players in the league. He provides most of the imagination and much of the incisiveness for a talented team that has struggled to score since a curious scheduling quirk handed them a lengthy break between June 30 and July 15.

With De Rosario in the side, United always knew it could pull out of the tailspin that has taken the club from first place in the Eastern Conference at the end of June to sixth place heading into this weekend. The veteran schemer has spent most of his MLS career conjuring up something from nothing. His heroics down the stretch last season earned him the MVP award despite his itinerant season and nearly pushed United to its first playoff berth since 2007. He may or may not have produced a similar feat this year, but his presence always offered some solace that United could reverse course at the right time.

Now the onus falls on other players to pick up the slack. United coach Ben Olsen can point to several talented options to justify the assertion that his team can replicate De Rosario's efforts in collective fashion. Chris Pontius looms as the potential savior up front if he can rediscover his scintillating first-half form, with Lionard Pajoy and Maicon Santos poised to provide further support. Nick DeLeon and Andy Najar can provide service from the flanks, though Najar will have to avoid an increasingly frequent right back assignment to do so. Heralded misfits Branko Boškovic and Hamdi Salihi could help too if they can find some way to win Olsen's trust.

All of those players will receive increased scrutiny as the season winds to a close. The adversity could bring this group together or send it spiraling into a winter of discontent. One thing appears certain amid the chaos: a comfortable denouement is now off the table with the club's most influential player unavailable to help the cause.

United's first match without De Rosario – a home tilt with New England on Saturday night – bears watching. FOX Soccer points out a few of the other highlights (and lowlights) ahead on the MLS slate this weekend.

CLEAR THE CALENDAR

Houston at Sporting Kansas City (Friday, 8:30 PM EST): The lofty stakes between first-place Sporting and fourth-place Houston make for compelling viewing. Houston closed up shop to claim a point at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and took advantage of Peterson Joseph's second-half red card to claim three points at BBVA Compass Stadium within two weeks in July. Sporting will have to find the feet of Graham Zusi in space early and often to extract a measure of revenge in this fixture.

Columbus at New York (Saturday, 7:00 PM EST): A glimpse of star men Thierry Henry and Federico Higuaín in the final third offers more than enough reason to take in the proceedings here. The playoff machinations between these two sides (New York sits third, while Columbus holds a one-point lead over D.C. United for the fifth and final spot) and half of the other Eastern Conference clubs just add a bit of extra spice to the already tempting affair.

SET THE DVR

Seattle at Portland (Saturday, 3:30 PM EST): No match this weekend will beat this Cascadia affair for ambience and passion. The rugged fare, however, usually falls short of the ample attention and lofty rhetoric usually associated with these games. Seattle is the better side by some distance right now, but the bitter rivalry between the clubs ensures the Sounders cannot simply turn up and collect the points.

PONDER ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS

Philadelphia at Toronto (Saturday, 1:00 PM EST): TFC coach Paul Mariner excoriated his side for an insipid first-half performance in Wednesday's 2-1 home defeat to Chicago. In most instances, the vitriolic rebuke would elicit a significant response in the next match. Unfortunately for Mariner and beleaguered Reds fans everywhere, this modest and tattered group of players will struggle to muster the appropriate reply against a young and currently impotent Union group.

SURVEY THE REST OF THE SCENE

Colorado @ Los Angeles (Friday, 11:00 PM EST); New England @ D.C. United (Saturday, 7:30 PM EST); Montréal @ Chicago (Saturday, 8:30 PM EST); Vancouver @ FC Dallas (Saturday, 8:30 PM EST); San Jose @ Chivas USA (Saturday, 10:30 PM EST)


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