If there was a silver lining to Andy Najar’s red card Saturday that knocked the 19-year-old right back out of D.C. United’s second leg against the New York Red Bulls, it’s that the club has a couple veterans with playoff experience ready to step in.
Robbie Russell, 33, is the most likely replacement Wednesday at Red Bull Arena. United’s first-choice right back for much of 2012, Russell started 16 games this season before suffering a foot injury in July. Although he was back in the fold down the stretch, he only made three cameos off the bench.
Russell has appeared in 12 playoff games, all with Real Salt Lake. In 2009, he converted the clinching penalty kick that gave RSL the MLS Cup title over Los Angeles. He also saw UEFA Champions League action during his time with Norwegian side Rosenborg BK.
“I feel great. That’s the only answer I can answer,” Russell said. “The coaches will have some decisions to make, and I hope I’m under consideration.”
Daniel Woolard, 28, is another option, as he could slide into the left back spot he started 20 games at this season and push Chris Korb across the field to the right side.
The journeyman, who appeared in three playoff games during his time with the Chicago Fire, was enjoying a career year before suffering a concussion in early August. Sporting protective headgear, he returned to full training several weeks ago but has not played since the injury.
“I think everybody feels really healthy right now,” said Woolard, who noted he feels 90-minutes fit. “We’ve got a lot of guys coming back from injuries. We’ve got a lot of options.
“I think I’m ready. I’ve got a few weeks of training in me. If that’s what it comes to, I’ll be ready to go.”
Whether coach Ben Olsen chooses Russell, Woolard or perhaps utility man Lewis Neal, Russell said he expects this well-oiled United machine that finished the season 5-0-2 without captain Dwayne De Rosario to just keep churning along.
“This group continues to surprise me all the time,” Russell said. “They are a team in every aspect of the word.”
NOTE: De Rosario (recovery from a sprained MCL) again took part in full training Monday. He did not appear to be limited as he completed a fitness drill involving quick, lateral movement, or during a high-intensity possession game.