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Olsen talks injuries, changing lineups, ahead of Union clash

With just the one day of practice before Saturday's tilt against Philadelphia, Ben Olsen had plenty to say after Friday's training

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

After a long week, one that included a Saturday game in New England, and a Wednesday game in Portland, D.C. United got back to the practice field on Friday ahead of their weekend game against the Philadelphia Union. The two games last week, coupled with the previous trip to Chester proved less than fruitful for United, as they managed just the one point against the nine-man Revs.

But after the Timbers game, in which United manager Ben Olsen put out a heavily changed side, the former United

"Energy was good today, so it won't be an excuse," Olsen said of the team's travel. "The plan was also to pick up a few more points than we did. That's all forgotten at this point. Sometimes it's nice to get back on the horse right away."

The disappointing draw against the Revolution behind them, Olsen sent Chris Rolfe, Davy Arnaud, Chris Pontius, and Sean Franklin home, while the rest of the team continued on to the Northwest. That gave Olsen a chance to give Luke Mishu his first start and appearance, while also giving Markus Halsti and Jared Jeffrey time in the midfield, with Conor Doyle and Jairo Arrieta starting up top.

And despite the 1-0 loss, Olsen thought that his team did well in finding the game as it wore on, and picked out several bright spots.

"That's why games like Wednesday are important to us," said Olsen. "To evaluate some of the guys in real games, in real atmospheres,  and what they are about. I thought a lot of them passed with flying colors."

Some coaches prefer to get looks and evaluations of players when they are plugged in along with a normal starting lineup. But with so many regulars sent home, and others out injured, Olsen wasn't afforded that opportunity, not that he prefers it anyways.

"I think in some respects you get a better evaluation. Because of the amount of minutes, and the amount of responsibility you're giving them," Olsen said of playing a side with changes throughout the team. "I thought Halsti was fantastic. Miguel [Aguilar] has moments of real excitement and promise, and then he has things we need to work on. Luke [Mishu], throwing him in, playing him in out of position, connected a lot of passes and was in good spots defensively."

Though the result wasn't what the team was looking for, there were almost enough positives for Olsen with the performance.

"As the game wore on, a lot of these guys played at a level that showed us that we can trust them in real games. That part was a success. We still feel like we could have gotten a result out of that. For a loss, I'm fairly happy with the performance."

With another busy month ahead of them in June, the Black-and-Red will end their May with some injury questions moving forward. On Friday, Nick DeLeon participated in practice, meaning he would be available for selection this weekend, though he might be held out until next week.

Luis Silva was running laps, but didn't participate in practice. Olsen said that the former Toronto forward would rejoin the training next week, meaning an appearance against his old club on Saturday could be a possibility. And Olsen only described Fabian Espindola as slowly progressing following the knock he picked up in the win against the Columbus Crew.

But the big worry now is Michael Farfan, who injured himself during a tackle in the draw last week against the New England Revolution. The midfielder had trouble getting back up after picking up a foul during the tackle, and had to be replaced moments later in the first half by Arrieta.

"Farfan is going to be a while. It's a good tear, and we'll see how quickly he can respond, but it's going to be a little bit for him. We're looking at a Grade 2 [tear]," said Olsen. "That can be sped up only so much. Michael was always going to be a tricky one to figure out how to incorporate him and how hard we can push him, because of his lack of games in the two years before coming here."

Despite all these injures the recent addition of Facundo Coria has been a welcomed relief for the Black-and-Red. Having received the necessary paperwork in time, Coria was part of the matchday squad against the Revs, and came in with United down 1-0, playing against nine men.

The Argentine was heavily involved, and had a secondary assist, with his pass to Taylor Kemp leading to Arrieta's equalizer. On Wednesday, Coria again came on as a late sub, and took several set pieces as United pushed for a point against the Timbers.

"He's been about what we thought. He's a very good piece for us," Olsen said of the Argentine. "What's his ceiling, and where he actually fits in, and what areas can we rely on him, other than being a sub late in the game when we need a goal? That's some of the stuff we're tossing around. That's going to take a little time to see him in different spots, and getting him more minutes."

With three games in eight days, plus US Open Cup play to begin next month, there just might be enough chances for Coria to find a more permanent spot in this team.

"We're very happy he's fitting in with the group," said Olsen. "He's talented. He's got some magic, and a real set of tricks as well. He's gives us something we don't have right now."