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D.C. United looking to get healthy after profitable Vancouver trip

After taking 3 points in Vancouver, United is close to having a full squad with a busy May on the horizon

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Following an off day after the longest single trip of their season, D.C. United hit the practice field on Tuesday, looking to build upon their performance in Vancouver. Against the leaders of the Western Conference, United fell behind on Saturday after 70 seconds, only to rebound to win against 10 men, thanks to goals from Bobby Boswell and Chris Rolfe.

"I was very pleased with the way they responded after the goal," United manager Ben Olsen told B&RU after practice on Tuesday. "Getting one back, and then managing the rest of the game. You would rather be up a man, but it's not always easy [playing against 10 men]. They are a dangerous team, even with 10 men."

In addition to having to make the cross continent trip to play against one of the best teams in the league thus far, United had to also erase some bad memories of conceding leads that they had built in the previous two games, at home against the New York Red Bulls and the Houston Dynamo.

But after Rolfe's strike midway through the second half, United managed to hold on, even with conceding a few chances, and with rookie Travis Worra in goal.

"I thought the way they countered with their weapons was pretty impressive, and we held on," Olsen added. "We rode our luck, but so did they. We had a few chances to go two or three to one. But it was important for us to hold a lead. We gave up the last two, and that's something that we've been addressing in our group."

With a stretch of at least 15 games in the next two months, getting players back healthy is at a premium now for United. One of the biggest absentees over the past few games, keeper Bill Hamid, was back at practice on Tuesday, going through the normal keeper drills, before manning the net during the short sided scrimmages.

"He's okay. He trained today, so we'll take it day by day with him," Olsen said of Hamid.

In addition to questions of Hamid's availability as he recovers from a thigh contusion, his back up, Andrew Dykstra, was not available to practice on Tuesday. Dykstra, who started against Houston last week and Vancouver on Saturday, was forced out of the game in Canada after Sean Franklin fell on his left ankle while attempting to block a shot.

"Day by day. He's not out here today," said Olsen of Dykstra. "The initial thoughts from the scan were that it wasn't that bad. So hopefully that's the case and we can get him back in the next few days."

Against Vancouver, Michael Farfan was given a surprise start in the center of the midfield, in front of Perry Kitchen, as veteran Davy Arnaud did not make the trip out west with the Black-and-Red. Olsen revealed that the main issue for Arnaud's absence was due to an injury, but that other factors played into the decision to keep him behind.

"He's been dealing with a groin [injury]. It was mostly that, but we have two months ahead of us with a lot of games," Olsen told reporters. "We want to make sure he is healthy for that stretch. It's a long trip [to Vancouver] and sometimes we forget that Davy's not the youngest guy, because he's such a competitor and wants to play every game. And he does such a good job when he does play for us, it's tough sometimes to leave him back. But I'm glad we did, because I think in the near future we'll be better for it."

Arnaud was a full participant at Tuesday's practice, as was Markus Halsti, who continues to recover from his preseason injury. Nearing a full recovery and being a possible choice for this weekend's clash against the Columbus Crew, Olsen preached patience with the Finnish international, making a first appearance more likely next weekend against Sporting Kansas City.

"He looked good today, full out, ready to go. We got to get a full week of training under him," Olsen said to B&RU. "We'll talk later this week about this weekend, and if he can play into that. I think it's important to get a few real training sessions under his belt without any hiccups."

In addition to everyone else fully participating in practice besides Dykstra, Steve Birnbaum finally made an appearance on the training field, as he recovers from a left ankle sprain. Having not played since injuring his ankle trying to win a header early on in a game in March against the LA Galaxy, Birnbaum participated in stretches and a passing drill on Tuesday, before doing some work on the side and running laps.