We'll get a chance to see how D.C. United copes with some early-season adversity this year. After losing Dwayne De Rosario for this first two games of the season due to a suspension and watching John Thorrington suffer a long-term injury just as he was starting to round into form, United received some more bad news today. Midfielder Nick DeLeon fell victim to a grade-two hamstring strain and is expected to miss the next six weeks.
DeLeon's injury occurred in the 31st minute of Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium.
When DeLeon came off the field on Saturday, he was replaced by 23-year old Kyle Porter. The Canadian midfielder earned mixed results on the right side of the midfield. He finished what could have been the tying goal if not for Lionard Pajoy's ill-advised attempt to attrieve the ball from an offside position, but Porter didn't seem to be on the same page as the rest of the team for much of the match.
With more time on the field, I have no doubt that Porter's chemistry with his teammates will improve. But he might not get that time right away. Ben Olsen has other options he might employ instead.
Panamanian midfielder Marcos Sanchez was away on national team duty on Saturday, but will return in time for United's next match on Fri. Apr. 5. Sanchez has proven to be one of United's most dynamic attacking options so far this season, and he would seem to be the likeliest candidate to step in for DeLeon.
Olsen might also choose a slightly more conservative tact on the road against Sporting Kansas City. He might choose to start the more experienced Lewis Neal, who is a specialist in maintaining possession and making smart and succinct passes, an area in which the team has struggled at times this season.
Regardless of who starts at right midfield the next few weeks, there's no doubt that DeLeon will be hard to replace. While not quite living up to his 2012 form yet, DeLeon is an important part of the team, and he will be missed.