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D.C. United acquires defensive reinforcements ahead clash with Columbus

With injuries piling up, the new reinforcements will help, according to coach Ben Olsen.

D.C. United hosts Columbus Crew at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON, D.C. — D.C. United found an answer to its injury issue at left back, but the focus Saturday against Columbus Crew SC is finding the back of the net.

Following a hot start to the season, United faced the full force of an injury bug and had to piece together different lineups. Defender Joseph Mora was the first to go down after taking a knee to the face against Orlando City SC.

United went from not conceding a single goal to conceding 10 goals in the next seven games. Defender Chris McCann, who stepped in for Mora, sustained a hamstring injury in the game against Montreal followed by Leonardo Jara (groin) and defensive midfielder Russell Canouse (knee). The injuries forced United to switch formations and tactics in a short stretch of games.

“We have asked guys to do a lot of things tactically and physically out of their element,” coach Ben Olsen said. “I think we should get a little more credit for that than the negative spin that we haven’t been able to score goals and play in the way that we did earlier in the season. You have to adapt.”

McCann and Canouse were back in full training this week. Meanwhile, Mora and Jara trained with the fitness coach on the side. The backline didn’t have much depth going into the season. With the latest injuries, United had to rely on a three-center back formation instead of its more familiar four-defender backline.

“It is next man up and we will get some reinforcements in here,” Olsen said. “We will, at some point, switch back to a four[-man defense], but it has actually been nice to play in this way so we have another look for teams.”

After weeks of piecing together defensive lineups, United brought in reinforcements with the addition of left back Marquinhos Pedroso off waivers from FC Dallas. Pedroso is the first natural left back since Mora sustained his broken jaw. Midfielders Paul Arriola and Lucas Rodriguez have both taken turns covering that side of the field. Mora was United only natural left back after defender Oniel Fisher knee injury last September.

The trade for Pedroso came in two parts. United traded a first round pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft to Dallas for $100,000 in general allocation money. Dallas waived Pedroso, allowing United to acquire him off waivers. 

“We’re happy to add Marquinhos to our roster and provide some important depth at outside back,” general manager Dave Kasper said. “He has a lot of professional experience in various leagues worldwide and we’re looking forward to integrating him into the team.”

United (5-3-2) and Columbus Crew SC (4-5-1) have hit a bit of a goal drought recently. Both clubs scored just one goal a piece in the last three games. United has played three games on the road in the past two weeks.

“We have to factor in travel and fatigue. We played a similar group for all three games. Some of the energy levels were low in the second half [against Minnesota],” Olsen said. “Maybe there is an away mentality of bunkering when we need to be a little more brave with the ball — both players and coach tactically in the way we go about the second half of the games.”

With a more solid backline, United returns to Audi Field with a renewed focus on getting points at home.

“Our mindset is to win a game at home,” Olsen said. “Overall, pleased with where we are at. It is important now to come home … and put on good performance at Audi Field.”

Match Information

When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Audi Field — Washington, D.C.

Streaming: FloSports or ESPN+

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