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D.C. United travels to New York City FC with depleted roster

Sep 2, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) and teammates salute the crowd after the game against the Atlanta United at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — D.C. United travels to New York City FC Saturday for yet another crucial match. This weekend, United faces the challenge of a depleted roster due to international call-ups and injuries. 

“The team meeting this morning was as thin as I have ever seen a team meeting,” Olsen said Tuesday. “That is part of this. Every team has to deal with this.”

United has mostly benefited from a compact schedule since the opening of Audi Field July 14 with a record of (6-3-1) over the last two months. Most recently, United is coming off a commanding 3-1 victory over Atlanta United. 

“There are a lot of factors; it’s not just Wayne [Rooney]. He is part of it,” Olsen said. “The desperation is because we look at the standing and the urgency. We have no choice. This weekend is another chance to move up the table.”

NYCFC is winless in the last four matches, losing three. Most recently, Domènec Torrent’s side fell 1-0 to the New England Revolution, which hurt United’s climb up the standings.

United is currently in a battle with New England, Montreal Impact and the Philadelphia Union for the final spot in the postseason. With a little more than a month left in the 2018 MLS regular season, United cannot afford to drop too many of its remaining nine games.

“There will be no excuses,” Olsen said. “We need to figure out the best group to get a result in a tough place to play.”

United will have to do something they have never done in order to collect three points: win at Yankee Stadium. 

“We have a pretty clear job right now, and that is to get as many points as possible and move up the table,” Olsen said. “It is about getting to the postseason.”

Where: Yankee Stadium–Bronx, New York

When: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 4:55 p.m. ET

Watch: Univision, Twitter & ESPN+

Predicted Starting XI: Bill Hamid; Bill Hamid; Joseph Mora, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare, Jalen Robinson; Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse; Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Ian Harkes;Wayne Rooney

Disappearing Depth

D.C. United will struggle to fill out an 18-man roster this weekend. United plays two games during the international break due in part to its compact schedule.

“We have a couple options,” Olsen said of his roster puzzle. “We have to get a little bit creative in the game, and I am sure [New York] does, as well. That is part of the international break.”

If games in hand are a blessing for United, who is looking to make a mad dash up the table, the tight schedule could be a curse. See the full list of missing players:

Goalkeeper: David Ousted out following successful nerve decompression surgery to his left elbow.

Defenders: Paul Arriola (plays midfielder and right back) is away with US men’s national team, Oneil Fisher is dealing with a hamstring injury, Vytas and Chris Odoi-Atsem reportedly picked up knocks in training, Nick DeLeon is working back from knee injury, and Taylor kemp is out for the season after labrum surgery.

Midfielders: Junior Moreno is away with Venezuela national team, Zoltan Stieber is away with Hungary national team, Bruno Miranda is away with Bolivia national team, Yamil Asad is dealing with an ankle injury.

Forward: Darren Mattoks is away with the Jamaican national team.

Fisher and Asad are “day to day,” but Olsen said there is no time table for a return date for either player. Center back Steve Birnbaum was missing from training Tuesday. He had some swelling in his knee and worked on a workout bike instead of training. The absence was more for regeneration and not a concern, Olsen said. 

Emergency Defender

As Olsen searched for a solution to his dwindling depth, he looked to the available free agents and found defender Kevin Ellis. With DeLeon, Fisher and Vytas injured and last-used right back Arriola away with the national team, United signed the former Sporting Kansas City homegrown defender ahead of the MLS roster freeze deadline on Sept. 14. 

Ellis most recently played for Chicago Fire where he made 20 appearances and recored 2 goals and 4 assists. The Fire waived Ellis last month. 

“Kevin is a versatile defender who can play anywhere along the back line,” United General Manager Dave Kasper said in the team’s press release. “This is an important depth move for us, and we are pleased to be adding an experienced MLS player in the prime of his career.”

United placed Kemp on the Season Ending Injury List in order to accommodated the addition of Ellis to the roster.

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