- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

D.C. United likely will be missing three key players tonight when it meets the Los Angeles Galaxy at RFK Stadium.

Midfielder Ben Olsen (quadriceps) and defender Ryan Nelsen (groin) were forced to leave Saturday’s 1-0 victory against the Kansas City Wizards. Midfielder Bobby Convey strained his left hamstring two weeks ago against the Columbus Crew and is out four to six weeks.

“From the beginning, everyone has been fighting for spots, so when you have that day in and day out, everyone is ready and everyone is capable of coming in,” Olsen said. “I don’t see why there would be any letdown with the guys coming in.”

Veteran defender Mike Petke will replace Nelsen in central defense, making a smooth transition in the back. However, adjusting to Olsen and Convey’s absence in the midfield is a bit trickier.

Coach Peter Nowak’s best option is to drop forward Jaime Moreno into an attacking midfield role and insert another forward — Alecko Eskandarian or Freddy Adu — alongside Ronald Cerritos.

Moreno, who is United’s leading scorer with two goals and three assists, is adept at playmaking. Moreno’s ability to hold the ball, plus his vision in finding open runners and playing balls into space, make the veteran the best option to fill the void in the club’s thin midfield.

“As long as I don’t come too deep to get the ball, I think I’ll be fine,” Moreno said. “If I start getting the ball too deep, I don’t think my legs can go for 90 minutes, so I have to be smart in that situation. I like to play that position, actually, and I think I’ll get the ball more often.”

This is the second of three games in eight days for United (2-2-3), which visits the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. Holding Olsen and Nelsen out tonight and saving them for the next game is an option Nowak will consider.

“We have this team ready for 90 minutes, ready for every game, and it doesn’t matter if we have two games in a week or three games in a week, they’re ready for it,” Nowak said.

The Western Conference-leading Galaxy (3-1-3) limp into RFK with injury issues of their own. Forward Carlos Ruiz, Major League Soccer’s leading goal scorer with six, and strike partner Jovan Kirovski probably won’t play. Ruiz sprained his right ankle in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Colorado and is out. Kirovski, who has three goals and one assist, has a sprained right foot and is questionable.

“Carlos Ruiz is a big loss for them,” United goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. “He’s proven over the years that he is the best striker in the league and loves to score goals and score goals at will. The loss of him and maybe Jovan is a plus for us, but we’re still going to go out there with the same attitude and same mentality to get three points [for a win].”

Ruiz and Kirovski join starting defenders Tyrone Marshall (knee), former Maryland player Danny Califf (knee) and midfielder Peter Vagenas (groin), all of whom probably will not play.

Notes — Adu graduates from high school Friday in Bradenton, Fla. After the ceremony, Adu will fly to Denver and rejoin United. “I worked hard for a long time to reach that stage in my life, and I’m going to go there and enjoy it because I’ve earned it,” Adu said. … Nowak said Convey was called to the U.S. men’s national team’s initial player pool for a June2 friendly against Honduras at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Given Convey’s injury, it is too early to know whether he’ll report.

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