The Washington Times - September 14, 2012, 10:40AM

With D.C. United captain Dwayne De Rosario, the reigning MLS Most Valuable Player, sidelined for 10 to 12 weeks with a sprained MCL suffered on Canada national team duty Tuesday, the club’s playoff aspirations have taken a notable hit.

In today’s paper, my story takes a look at De Rosario’s injury, the effect it’ll have on the club and his teammates’ thoughts. Here are some additional quotes from the RFK Stadium training field:


Coach Ben Olsen

On his initial reaction to the injury:

“It’s not the greatest news you get, but you move on. One thing I’ve learned in this job is every day poses new challenges and problems. Although you don’t replace a guy like this, you move on. I feel bad for Dwayne. I know that the rest of this season meant to him. But we’re in the business of moving on and getting on with the business, and I think we have a group now that hopefully is ready to do that.”

On the team compared to this point last season:

“It’s a whole different group. Each group is different and the psychology of it is different. I think going through it before helps for the guys who were here. And the guys who weren’t here that we brought I think are pretty mature and they’ve been through a lot in their careers.”

On how the team changes without De Rosario:

“The way we play, the way we make up might be tweaked a little bit. But nothing as far as the philosophy and the way we play or our mentality or the discipline we want to go about the game with really changes.”

On the team needing increased contributions from Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi:

“I don’t know if necessarily those two guys are the specific guys I need to lean on. I need to lean on all of them, guys who have contributed throughout the year. Pontius — can he get back in his goal-scoring form? Nick [DeLeon] can continue that. [Lionard] Pajoy — can he start to give us more? Everyone. There is no one or two guys who can replace Dwayne. And we’re not going to go get him in the league. Not many teams right now are looking to give up 100-goal-scorers for a fourth-round draft pick. So this is who we are, and everybody has to give a little bit more, but it’s doable.”

On whether the team will make a move before Saturday’s roster freeze:

The timing of this is tough. You have 48 hours to maybe get one piece where you have to move another one into that spot. Yeah, it’s a fair question. But again, it’s not that easy at this stage in the game. But, we’ll look. There are a lot of teams right now calling and accepting phone calls and trying to get something done. But in the end, a lot of this is talk. There is a lot of talk, a lot of fantasy soccer going on around this time of year and a lot of people want to pull the trigger.”

On how the injury affects United’s mentality:

“I’m not concerned about that one bit. If anything, I think there’s a higher percentage it could jell us. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but I could see that happen more than these guys throwing in the towel. It’s not in this group’s makeup.”

Midfielder Branko Boskovic

On how De Rosario’s absence changes his role:

“No, nothing has changed. Everybody must give our maximum, play like best we know. It’s a big handicap for us and we have seven games and we must stay together and give best of what we can do in this moment.”

On the team’s mentality:

“We must be strong and stay focused and mentally stay good, and try to with the group, with the quality give our best.”

Defender Dejan Jakovic

On how the injury affects the Canada national team with two crucial World Cup qualifiers in October:

“It does impact Canada. We’re in a situation where the Cuba game at home we’ve got to win for sure and hopefully get a result in Honduras, hope for at least a tie. It’s not going to be easy.”

On United losing key players at crucial times:

“I feel like every year we have a key player go down. Last year we had Pontius with the broken leg and now De Ro. I think we’ll be OK. We have a lot of good players on the team, we’re a deep team. Obviously it’s a big loss for us, but I think we’ll manage through.”

On what he saw of the injury during the Canada game:

“He came off, he was really [mad]. He felt like he actually hurt himself, he was limping the whole time.”

Midfielder Perry Kitchen

On United facing teams out of the playoff race the next five games:

“It’s tight. These guys aren’t going to just roll over because we’re ahead of them. They may be out of the playoff race, but they’re playing for pride, they’re playing for their clubs and whatever else. So it’s not going to be easy. We’re going to expect these games to be very tough.”

On lessons the team has learned from last year’s stretch run:

“Last year, we’d do great work and just lose it in the last few minutes. So just close out games, just staying sharp the whole 90 minutes — that’s probably the biggest thing we’ll be working on this year.”

Midfielder-forward Chris Pontius

On United’s soft schedule:

“It doesn’t matter that it’s against teams that are in the bottom half. I’m well aware of that, but we’ve still got to go there and get three points. That’s what it comes down to at this point in the season.”

On how the team has evolved since last season:

“Obviously we’re a more mature team than we were last year. We didn’t close out games well. Last year, we didn’t see out games.”