After missing 10 games because of injury, Marcelo Gallardo will return to the lineup when D.C. United hosts Chivas USA on Saturday.
United’s designated player spent two weeks in his native Argentina recently to heal from an abductor strain.
“The idea is to play,” Gallardo said through a interpreter. “I don’t know how many minutes, but I’ll play as long as my body holds up. I haven’t played for a while so I’m not physically fit 100 percent, but I want to get on the field and do as much as I can.”
Gallardo’s return is timely because United’s top two scorers, Luciano Emilio (11 goals) and Jaime Moreno (10), won’t play against Chivas (10-10-6, 36 points). Emilio has an injured hamstring, and Moreno received a suspension after he earned a red card in a 3-0 loss at FC Dallas on Sept. 28.
“Our best stretch was those five or six games when [Emilio] was scoring and everyone was healthy,” Gallardo said. “Because we’ve had so many injuries and so many lineups, other guys have had to learn to score and step up for the team. I’m confident we will find goals even though Jaime and Emilio are not on the field.”
United will have to look to either Santino Quaranta (five goals), Thabiso Khumalo, Francis Doe or Ryan Cordeiro, to assume the striker role.
United (10-13-3, 33) is out of the playoff picture with three games remaining after Saturday against Houston, New England and Columbus.
“We’ve put ourselves in a spot and there is no looking back,” said United coach Tom Soehn, whose team is on a seven-game winless streak (0-6-1).
Gallardo has played 105 minutes since having hernia surgery in July. He last played for United on Sept. 6 in the 2-1 loss at San Jose.
“The truth is, our team is going through a really tough moment right now and we are in need of a win, and we need to win [Saturday], or we are out of the playoffs,” said Gallardo, who has four goals and three assists this season.
United posted a 9-7-3 record with Gallardo but is 7-13-1 without him.
Saturday’s game marks the club’s 41st of the year. By the time the playoffs arrive, United will have played a team-record 47 games. United set its previous mark with 44 games in 2005.
“There is no other game that’s more important than this one against Chivas,” defender Bryan Namoff said. “This game alone is like the last game of our season.”
United owns 5-1-1 record all-time over Chivas.
Notes — Former United midfielder Freddy Adu and goalie Troy Perkins have been named to the roster for the U.S. national team’s World Cup qualifier against Cuba at RFK Stadium on Oct.11. … Injuries have forced Soehn to use 28 different players in MLS games - the third-highest behind Toronto (33) and Chivas (30). The total ranks second in club history to 30 players in 2006.