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For D.C. United, it’s heads Steve Clark, tails David Ousted

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After Clark’s standout performance against Columbus, Ben Olsen has a decision to make

One of the biggest positional dilemmas that D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen has to face this weekend is who to play at goal. After the 1-0 win over Columbus Crew SC two weekends ago, Olsen admitted that Steve Clark, who made two game-saving stops as United ground out a victory with just ten men, suffered from being a known quantity when newcomer David Ousted was brought in, with the Dane eventually being the starter for the team’s first five games.

But when Ousted missed out on the game in Annapolis due to a foot injury, an avenue for Clark opened up, and the 32-year-old keeper made the most of his opportunity. After Paul Arriola was sent off with a red card early in the second half against the Crew, Clark made spectacular saves on Pedro Santos and Gyasi Zardes, helping United hold on for their first win of the season.

Now, with Ousted back healthy, Olsen will have to decide who will man United’s goal in this weekend’s trip to Chester to take on the Philadelphia Union.

“I’ll flip a coin and I’ll pick one,” Olsen jokingly said today after United’s practice.

“I have a good feel for both of them, we will continue to evaluate them on a daily basis,” added Olsen. “And over the next day or two, I’ll pick one.”

In the first five games of the season, Ousted was mostly solid even as United failed to win any of those games. Ousted, who moved to United after his contract was not renewed with the Vancouver Whitecaps, did not have any glaring mistakes that led to goals, but conceded 10 times in those first 5 games.

After joining the Black-and-Red last August, Clark was handed the last five starts of the 2017 season, as Bill Hamid decided to sign in Denmark after letting his contract run out. Clark conceded 11 times in those games, albeit on a team whose season was well over. That stint is what Olsen referenced when he said “[Clark’s] been just as good as David throughout the preseason, and he was a little bit punished for familiarity, frankly,” after the Crew victory.

So what will Olsen decide for the Union game? He wasn’t willing to tip his hand, and if he’s made up his mind already, he certainly wasn’t going to let anyone know. But, with the input of goalkeeper coach Zach Thornton, Olsen will make a decision this week, hoping that whoever he puts in goal can help United create some sort of momentum as they embark on an eight-game road trip.

“I could lean one or I could lean the other way. I’ll make a decision at some point before the game, but I’m not ready to make the decision right now,” said Olsen. “Steve had a very good game [against Columbus], and I think David has been pretty good too.”

United’s boss is sure of one thing, though: “One of them is going to be pissed off.”