The past week has been mostly forgettable for D.C. United, as the calendar turned from March to April, moving the MLS season into its second month. To end March, United beat Orlando City on the road, thanks to a goal and an assist from Wayne Rooney. Joseph Mora suffered a broken jaw and concussion in the 2-1 win, but that was the only negative out of United's first win on the road in nearly a year.
Since that win, though, United has had a rough week as they dropped points at home in two consecutive matches. In those two games at home — a loss to Los Angeles FC and a draw against the Montreal Impact — the Black-and-Red managed zero goals after scoring nine through the first four games of the season.
Mora was joined on the sideline by fellow outside backs Leonardo Jara and Chris McCann, who both exited the scoreless draw against the Impact early. Those injuries are in addition to the long term absences of Oniel Fisher and Chris Odoi-Atsem, leaving United with few options this weekend against the Colorado Rapids.
Ben Olsen will have some tinkering to do on Saturday night, a game that kicks off at 9 PM ET, right here on FloFC. But any changes he's forced to make not only can give other players a chance to shine, but according to the head coach, it can help the team's mentality as a whole.
"Everyone goes through these sections, with injuries and suspensions, and you have to rely on your group to adapt," Olsen told FloFC earlier this week. "You have to rely on your depth on top of that. If you can get results while you go through these periods, it helps the group mentality. Everybody is engaged and feeling that they have worth in the group."
Without the injured outside backs, Olsen might have to start two players out of their natural positions. Akeem Ward, who was selected in the first round of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, can play on either side of the defense. However, the rookie has the least experience of all the options, having played just a couple of games for Loudoun United before making the bench against the Impact.
Paul Arriola and Jalen Robinson might be the two most logical options, but as of Wednesday United were still going through all the different combinations that might best help them succeed in Commerce City.
"There’s a lot that goes into these lineup [decisions], both in the short term and looking into the next game," said Olsen. "We are still tinkering with some ideas on how best to go about Colorado."
United was meant to have a slight advantage in terms of rest over their opponents, having played on Tuesday night. The 'Pids were supposed to host the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night, but that game was postponed until September for a snowstorm that blew through Colorado.
On top of that, United are still having to worry about the health of Wayne Rooney. After being suspended for the game against Montreal, the striker was a sure bet to start in his first ever road game against a Western Conference opponent. However, Steve Goff of the Washington Post reported that Rooney missed attending Tuesday's game and Wednesday's practice because of flu-like symptoms.
Rooney was part of the team that traveled to Denver on Thursday, but United will be hoping that the Englishman will be healthy to start. The game against the Rapids will be vastly different than the affair on Tuesday night. In six games this year, the Rapids have been involved in scoring or conceding 25 goals, an average of four per game. They opened the year with a 3-3 draw against the Portland Timbers, and their most recent result was a 4-1 loss to Orlando City.
"They will be an aggressive group, and the game will not look the way the Montreal game looked, especially with the energy levels they will have," said Olsen.