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If Branko Boskovic is slowly working his way into a regular starting spot, is it possible for Hamdi Salihi to do so at the same time?
After what seems like an eternity, D.C. United is back in action this weekend in a critical game against the Columbus Crew. Just like the United States men's national team, a win or a draw means that United is into the next round; a loss means that everything stays up in the air and depends on the results of those around us. But also like the national team, United needs a quality victory to try and temper growing dissatisfaction, from at least some quarters, over the way that the team is playing. Jurgen Klinsmann was able to will his charges into a convincing 3-1 victory over Guatemala. A similar victory over the Columbus Crew would give the team and the fans momentum going into the playoffs.
Since Dwayne DeRosario has gone down with a knee injury, Marcelo Saragosa is the player who has come off the bench to start every game. But with this formation, Ben Olsen has shown two different ways that the team can be more offensive minded. The first, which we saw in the last home game against Chivas USA, is to start with the two forward tandem of Lionard Pajoy and Maicon Santos.
The second, which is what I am predicting for Saturday, is to start with Branko Boskovic in the place of Lewis Neal. Ben Olsen has considered Boskovic as a potential starter only when the team is at home. But I am thinking, or maybe just hoping, that he tries to work Boskovic into the regular starting lineup in anticipation of the playoffs. If it is not working, Olsen can do what he has always done: pull Branko at the 56 minute mark and get a spark off the bench. The advantages he brings are worth that risk.
Why no Hamdi Salihi, you might ask? Its all in reading the tea leaves Olsen leaves us, and then trying to translate those from Olsenese into English. After the last game, he called Salihi "our best scorer" who is going to be a "big part of our playoff run." But our own Chest Rockwell's translation of that statement is that Salihi does well when United is attacking, but not as well when the team is defending. For all their other qualities, Maicon Santos and Lionard Pajoy get involved on defense when needed.
So where does that leave Salihi? In the same place he was used against Toronto: a 30 to 35 minute super sub when United need a goal. Would I like to see him paired with Pajoy and in front of Boskovic? Sure, I think that could be interesting. But with the playoffs so close, I do not see Olsen experimenting that much at such a late date, especially if he wants to work Boskovic into the starting lineup for the playoffs. At this point, I do not see a way that Ben Olsen starts Hamdi Salihi and Branko Boskovic together.
For this lineup, the subs would be Joe Willis, Hamdi Salihi, Maicon Santos, Lewis Neal, Emiliano Dudar, Ethan White, and Lance Rozeboom! I don't actually think that Boomer will be on the bench, but I am just happy he is back training with the team.
As always, let me know what your lineups would be in the comments.