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D.C. United fits in friendly vs. Olimpia amid tight MLS playoff race and jammed schedule

D.C. United vs. Olimpia (Honduras)

What: Friendly. Where: Audi Field.

When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.

Outlook: With United locked in a tight MLS playoff race and the roster in need of rest after 14 games in nine weeks, the timing of the first international match at Buzzard Point is terrible. Even though D.C. does not have an MLS game this weekend, Coach Ben Olsen will play reserves, such as goalkeeper Travis Worra; defenders Kevin Ellis and Jalen Robinson; midfielders Chris Durkin, Ian Harkes, Bruno Miranda and Jared Jeffrey; and forward Dane Kelly. Guest players from the second-division Richmond Kickers, United’s USL affiliates, will provide reinforcement.

“We need to let a lot of them rest, but the game is a good opportunity for guys who haven’t seen a lot of minutes,” Olsen said. “We want to push their minutes because every year you need — down the stretch because of injuries and suspensions and national team call-ups — to rely on everybody.”

Center back Kofi Opare was the latest injury casualty. He missed the 3-3 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Sunday and is questionable for Montreal’s visit Sept. 29 with a groin ailment. Also, forward Darren Mattocks is battling a hamstring issue.

United scheduled the Olimpia game just a month ago in an effort to strengthen ties with the Central American community and introduce those fans to newly opened Audi Field. D.C. had planned to play the Salvadoran national team Oct. 3, but given the heavy schedule, it has been scrapped. (The teams are likely to meet in the spring.)

With 13 days between league matches, Olsen is seeking to strike a balance between rest and maintaining momentum (6-2-3 in the past 11 matches).

“We’ve got to download but also keep moving forward,” he said. “You want to download the bodies but not the minds. We want to stay sharp. It’s tricky, but keeping the urgency of the moment and the task at hand should be pretty easy for our players in understanding what the next month and a half means.”

Olimpia, from Tegucigalpa, is in first place in Honduras’ Liga Nacional with a 5-0-4 record. Jerry Bengtson, a former forward for the national team and New England Revolution, has scored five goals in eight appearances. The roster also includes national team defender Ever Alvarado and attacker Carlo Costly, whose 32 goals rank fourth in national team history.

The Lions are the country’s most successful team with 30 domestic championships and 17 second-place finishes. However, they have not won the title since 2015-16. Olimpia alumni includes former United star Luciano Emilio, who now operates a youth academy in the D.C. area and helped arrange the friendly.

Read more:

Alan Shearer, Gully the Seagull and NBC’s Premier League show coming to D.C.

How 111 American soccer players abroad fared this weekend

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