Missing a player is one thing.
But when that player is a captain, all-star, and MVP, then it’s serious business.
D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario, a talismanic figure in Major League Soccer, is ruled out for the season with an MCL sprain.
Essentially, United’s most dangerous player will not take the field at PPL Park on Thursday night.
"We've prepared for them three times with him, and now we've got to prepare for a game without him, which in some ways makes it more difficult," said Union manager John Hackworth on Wednesday. "But, regardless of who they play, they have a strong bench and a good team. We watched the last game, and what (the starting XI) looked like for them. The players that have filled in are doing a good job and they obviously got a good result against New England."
United dispatched the Revolution 2-1 last week to climb back into playoff contention.
De Rosario tallied seven goals and 12 assists this season. He started 25 games and played the third most minutes of any player on Ben Olsen’s team. He also led his squad with 81 shots.
"They’re certainly not the same team without him," added winger Danny Cruz, who joined Philadelphia from D.C. in a mid-season trade. "He’s a special player. When I was there, there were times when he singlehandedly put the game in his hands. There’s no doubt about it, they’re going to be missing him. Ben (Olsen) has done a good job of putting a group of guys on the field that really work for one another and do everything they can to get the job done."
Designated player Branko Boskovic is expected as the go-to guy in De Rosario's absence. The Montenegro international has slotted in comfortably in the attacking midfield role in Olsen's 4-4-2.
He also served up the set piece that gave United a 1-0 win at PPL Park in July.
"Boskovic, I think he's an excellent player," Hackworth explained. "I've always been very impressed with him. He brings a different skill set than De Ro does, he plays it differently. But I think he's an exceptional player in this league. He's deadly on his service and his restarts, so it's something we'll have to contend with for sure."
"From our standpoint, we’re not going into it thinking, they’re missing their best player," said Cruz. "We’re going into it thinking that they’re on the cusp of the playoffs, they’re in the playoffs right now obviously, as far as their mark. But we need to get three points. We’re going to hopefully spoil that and do everything we can and play the way we know how to play.”