WASHINGTON -- D.C. United manager Ben Olsen has been searching far and wide for a lineup combination that will turn his club's fortunes around. He has called upon untested rookies and MLS newcomers, moved players to new positions and gone up and down his roster while trying to fill holes created by ineffective players or injured ones. Saturday's wrinkle involved benching his captain and all-time MLS great, Dwayne De Rosario. Follow AVI CREDITOR on Twitter
De Rosario was an unexpected healthy scratch from the starting lineup for D.C.'s 2-0 loss to the Portland Timbers, which saw D.C. extend its winless streak to 10 matches and tie a dubious franchise record in the process.
The Canadian international star came on in the 65th minute, but that was after goals from former D.C. player Rodney Wallace and Darlington Nagbe sealed United's fate. With six goals in 12 matches, D.C. is averaging a league-worst 0.5 goals per game, and Saturday's result was the seventh time this season that D.C. was shut out.
When asked why De Rosario, who won an MLS Golden Boot with D.C. in 2011 and whose 101 career goals are sixth-most in MLS history, did not start, Olsen offered a stone-faced "coach's decision." De Rosario, on the other hand, offered a more revealing account.
"Surprised is not the word," De Rosario said regarding his reaction to the lineup snub. "[Olsen] didn't think that me and Carlos [Ruiz] can play on the same field together, so that's what it is.
"I think if you look at our track record as goal scorers, as creators, I think it's not a bad problem to try at least once."
Ruiz, who has 88 career MLS goals, was handed his first start of the season after making public comments about his frustration at his lack of playing time. The 33-year-old Guatemalan veteran did not score, but he was involved in D.C.'s most dangerous moments of the night and provided a semblance of forward play that D.C. has not had on a consistent basis. He came off after 71 minutes, overlapping with De Rosario for the final six.
"Everyone else has gotten a shot on this team," Olsen said. "He deserved it, and I thought he did well. For 45-50 minutes I thought he brought some real soccer up there. I think he held up some balls, and I thought he had a real positive match, and I'm happy that he got out on the field. He's knocked on my door numerous times saying, 'Give me a chance.' It certainly wasn't on him tonight."
Ruiz's performance could lead to more playing time considering how the rest of D.C's forwards have played, but he left his and De Rosario's playing status in Olsen's hands.
"It depends what Ben wants, because we are not young like a couple years ago," Ruiz said. "If he wants us to run up and down, up and down, it's going to be a little bit difficult. It depends on him and what he sees from the team."
If Olsen truly believes that Ruiz and De Rosario cannot coexist on the field, then De Rosario may find himself left in an unaccustomed position as he looks to do what he can to pull his side out of its season-long doldrums and back into contention in the Eastern Conference.
"At the end of the day it's [Olsen's] team and he has to make the decisions, and I have to live with it as a player. I just have to work hard as a leader and a captain, and that's what I try to do," De Rosario said. "There's talent in this locker room. But I don't know if we're using the talent to the best of its abilities."
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