With D.C. United practicing ahead of their West Coast swing to Canada to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps, keeper Bill Hamid was noticeably absent on Tuesday. Hamid missed last week's game against the Houston Dynamo, and his status for the Vancouver game seems to be undetermined.
"Still taking it day by day, to see if he can get over the hump here," United manager Ben Olsen told B&RU after practice on Tuesday, without revealing anything else.
Hamid, the 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, came out to practice with the rest of his teammates, but shortly walked back in, having not participated at all. Nursing a thigh contusion picked up two weeks ago against the New York Red Bulls, Hamid was unable to compete for the US in last week's friendly against Mexico, before being a game time scratch on Saturday.
Andrew Dykstra stepped in for Hamid against the Dynamo, and made four saves while allowing one goal in his first MLS appearance since last year's 4-2 win at Montreal.
Meanwhile the Black-and-Red finished up practice on Tuesday with finishing drills, working on an aspect of their game that has been lacking so far this season. Through six games, the second place side in the Eastern Conference has just six goals to their name.
Fabian Espindola's return this week from suspension will help the side out, but the finishing is something that hasn't gone unnoticed by the team.
"We've been creating chances. but we haven't been doing well with some of those chances," Olsen added. "Whether its the final pass, or the goal itself, it's something we have been lacking. We've been working on it for the past few weeks to try to get a little bit cleaner, a little more comfortable in the final third."
But, during a three game stretch with just one goal from the run of play, United have been able to to find the back of the net three other times, thanks to set pieces. Those aren't something to lean on for the duration of the season, but in the meantime, United will take them whenever they can.
"Fortunately we have had some set pieces to bail us out, so I hope to continue with the set pieces, and add some of the break quality to our game," said Olsen.
This weekend, United head up to the Canada's west coast to face the Vancouver Whitecaps. Led by newly acquired Uruguayan striker Octavio Rivero -- who leads the league with 5 goals -- the 'Caps lead MLS with 16 points, though they are one of just two teams to have played 8 games thus far.
Coming off a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium last Saturday, Olsen is wary of the side that has lost just once this season, an opening day defeat at home to Toronto FC.
"Threats all over the field. A very good forward [Rivero], and [midfielder Pedro] Morales is as good as it comes in this league for starting breaks," he said. "They are able to exploit teams. It's as good of a team as this league has right now. They've shown that with their results."
Of note on Tuesday was also Markus Halsti's involvement in practice. United have slowly worked him back in to the point where he is close to being in contention. A couple of weeks ago, Halsti was working with trainers, trying to get fitness back. Last week, he participated in passing drills. On Tuesday, Halsti played part in team drills, a sign that he is close to returning to the team.
But Halsti was the lone participant in practice in a yellow bib, akin to putting a quaterback in a red jersey during football practice. The bib was meant to denote that there was to be no tackling of Halsti, as Olsen noted after practice.
"You hit him, you're going to get grounded."