Washington, D.C. – D.C. United begins its playoff push at RFK Stadium on Saturday against the New England Revolution, but the club will do so without its offensive catalyst, Dwayne De Rosario.
The Canadian international was ruled out for 10-12 weeks on Thursday with a knee injury that he sustained while on international duty during World Cup qualifying this past week.
And with United sitting one point back of the Columbus Crew with seven games to play, De Rosario's absence couldn't come at a worse time for Ben Olsen's team.
De Rosario has scored seven goals and assisted on 12 more this season for the club, meaning he has had a hand in 19 of the 43 goals scored by United so far.
The absence leaves a huge void in attack for Olsen, whose team has struggled over the past month by winning just once in six games.
Olsen has admitted that there is no way to replace the 2011 MLS MVP, but he also believes that the club can overcome the loss if everyone else on the side steps up.
"There's no one guy or two guys that are going to replace Dwayne," said Olsen. "We aren't going to go get them in the league - not too many teams are looking to give up 100 goal scorers for a fourth-round draft pick. This is who we are and everybody has to give a little bit more. This is doable."
One thing United will try to avoid is a similar collapse to the one that kept the club out of the postseason last term, when a run of one win in the final nine games saw Olsen's men slip out of the playoffs.
"Last year, we did great work and we'd lose it in the last few minutes. Just closing out games and staying sharp the whole 90 minutes are probably the biggest thing we're working on this year," United defender Perry Kitchen said when asked about how his team can avoid a similar slump to last year.
Another thing that will help is the fact that United's next five games, beginning with New England on Saturday, will be against the five weakest teams in MLS.
The final stretch of games for the Revolution don't figure to hold as much meaning with the club facing the prospect of being eliminated from playoff contention with a defeat against United.
Head coach Jay Heaps saw his side snap a 10-game winless streak last time out by handing Columbus a 2-0 defeat, which showed a lot of character according to the coach.
"I think there wasn't much more than a lot of guys playing with a lot of heart and knowing it's not easy to go out there on the run we've been on and the luck that hasn't gone our way," Heaps said of the win. "I was really happy for the way the guys showed up."