- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 5, 2009

Just when D.C. United coach Tom Soehn thought his roster was settled for the final push to the playoffs, he has another injury to deal with.

Central defender Dejan Jakovic will be out at least two weeks while recovering from sports hernia surgery. Jakovic, who already was suspended for United’s match at FC Dallas on Saturday, will miss United’s home games next week against Kansas City and Seattle.

“We are going to make do with the roster we have,” Soehn said. “We’ve had so many guys go through this hernia stuff. We are ready for it and anxious to get him back.”

Defensive midfielder Clyde Simms missed time earlier this season with a sports hernia, and forward Jaime Moreno underwent surgery in the offseason to remedy the same ailment. Last year, midifielder Marcelo Gallardo - who made $1.87 million in his one season with the club before leaving for River Plate - missed significant time with a sports hernia.

Jakovic’s absence comes as the back line was beginning to stabilize. For the first time this season, United is riding back-to-back shutouts in MLS play. United held the Los Angeles Galaxy to a scoreless tie at home and then defeated Chicago 1-0 on the road last Saturday.

“We’ve done a good job in keeping a clean sheet in league play,” Soehn said. “[If] we get a result [at Dallas], then we have a home stretch which we knew was coming and where we hope to do something really special.”

New signing Julius James, who made his first start for United against Chicago and played well, likely will replace Jakovic between Bryan Namoff and Marc Burch. But Soehn recently has been playing with a four-man back line, which means he could tuck Namoff into the middle and bring someone else, possibly Rodney Wallace, into the left-back role. Avery John and Devon McTavish also are options.

“[Dejan’s] shoes are obviously big shoes to fill,” Namoff said.

With Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup loss to Seattle in the past and the CONCACAF Champions League down the road, United’s focus is reaching the MLS playoffs. Since five of its remaining seven remaining league games will be played at RFK Stadium, United (7-5-11, 32 points) is in a good position to reach the postseason, but more offense is needed.

Leading striker Luciano Emilio, who has eight goals in 20 games, is scoreless in his past three MLS games.

“Right now in the league everything is shoring up and you are not going to get the 20 chances you got early in the season,” Soehn said. “So when you get the chance, you need that killer instinct to put teams away.”

Dallas is coming off two road losses but has won its past four home games. Forward Jeff Cunningham has seven goals in the those wins.

“We’ve built a road mentality,” Soehn said. “Dallas is a spot where we can get a good result.”

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