As of yesterday, D.C. United had ten players — fully one-third of its roster — unavailable due to injuries. That is bad, but it also seemed like progress: last week, the team listed 11 players as being out, and then had two more pick up injuries in their final training session before heading off to San Jose. Anything to lower that number, even incrementally, had to be seen as a positive.
However, an absurd situation truly turned farcical this afternoon, with the following new developments:
Welp, a #DCU injury list is never actually complete these days: Now getting word starting forward Erik Sorga was hurt in training this week and will miss a few weeks. Awaiting official confirmation.— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) May 7, 2021
Erik Sorga, who has started up front (possibly because of injuries to Ola Kamara and Yordy Reyna) in all three games this year, picked up some kind of unspecified injury sometime this week. Which...alright, we’re used to this at this point. Back up to 11 players out. Can’t get worse, right?
Well, no. Brendan Hines-Ike, who has been arguably one of United’s best players in this young season, and who did not look like this when speaking to media on a video conference call literally yesterday, posted a since-deleted photo to Instagram showing him with a swollen eye and some stitches, along with a note saying he’d be out tomorrow.
That means United will head to Ohio to take on the MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew missing 12 players due to injuries. Twelve! Sorga and Hines-Ike join Paul Arriola, Steven Birnbaum, Russell Canouse, Jacob Greene, Bill Hamid, Kevin Paredes, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Yordy Reyna, Nigel Robertha, and Griffin Yow on the list of players that are not available to play tomorrow.
Assuming there is no other terrible news feels foolish, but let’s do so for a second. If that’s the case, United will have lost 45 man-games to injury this year. That is, after playing four games, they will be averaging more than 11 players unavailable per match. Last year’s absolutely brutal rash of injuries late in the season saw 54 man-games lost in the final eight games of a slog of a season, and we’re making that look like child’s play right now.
There’s not even really a pattern here, and this post is not an attempt to figure out why this is happening. Some of these are players rehabbing from surgeries that took place before the preseason began. Others are complete mysteries beyond the location of the injury being “lower body.” Some were hurt in preseason games, while others were hurt in training. One player was hurt playing for a different team on a different continent. Another apparently picked up this injury due to scar tissue from something that happened over three years ago. The list goes on and on.
United’s current predicament is so bad that they might be able to do something truly rare: make use of the MLS emergency short-term contract rules and offer a Loudoun United player a four-day contract to play in MLS.
Probably of value for DC United folks at this moment pic.twitter.com/VBzvsQasL6— Ryan Keefer (@reefa_k) May 7, 2021
United currently has either 14 or 15 field players available tomorrow. Donovan Pines came off the injury report, but it is unclear whether he’s actually ready to go or not. Either way, those numbers are below 16, which means that the door is open to do something the club has only ever done once before.
Do you remember J.P. Rodrigues? Back in 2010, United had so many injuries that they turned to the USL to add the defender on a short-term emergency contract, and in fact brought him on as a substitute in what ended up being a 2-0 loss to San Jose. It ended up being a Moonlight Graham moment for the Guyanese international. United has had Loudoun players suit up for friendlies in recent years, and dressed a couple for US Open Cup games in 2019, but Rodrigues currently stands alone when it comes to MLS play.
This piece isn’t even intended to really get into the weeds on rare MLS player acquisition mechanisms. It’s more just a shout towards the heavens. A cry for relief. What have we done to deserve this? Wasn’t 2020 a difficult enough soccer season for this team? Is it even physically safe to cover this team, or will the injury curse spread to us media wretches?
I’d love to offer you some positive news. Things might get better soon? But in the meantime, a small cadre of survivors headed west earlier this afternoon. One of that group only just returned from a major injury last week; another has been dogged for years with a wide range of maladies, and was held back from traveling to New England due to their hard turf surface.
It’s rough! It’s too many injuries, happening in such a wide range of ways that it’s not even reasonable to point towards any one cause. I don’t have any real analysis to offer beyond that.