United they stand: Minnesota, D.C. cling to playoff hopes
After a bare-bones D.C. United squad held on for a draw at New York City FC last Saturday, a few crucial reinforcements return for Wednesday's home match against a Minnesota United club welcoming its own star back from injury.
Paul Arriola has been released from the U.S. national team after he started in the Americans' 2-0 loss to Brazil in a friendly last Friday night in New Jersey.
And Jamaican forward Darren Mattocks is done with his international duty, having scoring twice in the Reggae Boyz's 4-0 CONCACAF Nations League victory over the Cayman Islands on Sunday.
D.C. (8-11-7, 31 points) remains without three international callups. And with lingering injuries to midfielder Yamil Asad as well as defenders Oneil Fisher, Vytas and Frederic Brillant, it could still be forced to field less than a full 18-man roster on game day.
That said, United's 1-1 draw at New York came with only 15 players dressed and included rare starts for midfielders Ian Harkes, Chris Durkin and Ulises Segura, and defender Jalen Robinson.
"There were a lot of new faces in there," D.C. coach Ben Olsen said. "When you add more players like this and can grab something out of a difficult match, it helps everyone feel like they're a part of this."
As the only teams playing in MLS on Wednesday night, both D.C. and Minnesota have chances to make up ground in their bid for a late-season playoff push.
A victory would put D.C. within two places of the Eastern Conference playoff line and the sixth-place Montreal Impact with a match still in hand.
Meanwhile, Minnesota (9-15-2, 29 points) will need a near-miracle finish if it's to make up a 12-point gap beneath the playoff line in the Western Conference with eight matches to play.
The good news for the Loons? Darwin Quintero appears to be healthy again after missing two games in the course of a full month with a leg injury.
Before the ailment, the Colombian attacker had scored seven goals in his previous eight games.
The bad news? The Loons are winless in their last five matches and have taken only four of a potential 39 points away from the Twin Cities. Even their last game, a 2-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City, was seen as a modest improvement.
"We had our chances," Minnesota defender Brent Kallman said after that match on Aug. 25. "We really just didn't take them, so I think we can take some positives away from this game.
"We were more disciplined. We stayed more to the plan. We can take that moving forward because things don't really get any easier. We've got a lot of road games coming up still."
Updated September 10, 2018