Dwayne De Rosario
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DC "very optimistic" De Rosario will play vs. Houston

WASHINGTON – With D.C. United in need of at least two goals to keep their season alive in Sunday’s second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship against Houston, who better to have in the lineup than 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario?

The Canadian international, who has been out since Sept. 11 with a grade III MCL sprain, fully participated in Tuesday’s training session and United assistant coach Chad Ashton is convinced that the Canadian international could make his return on Sunday.

“He’s a lot further along than I think we would have expected,” Ashton said following Tuesday’s training. “I think we’re very optimistic he could play. … Limited minutes, for sure.”

De Rosario was a bit more tempered in his expectations, but he's happy with how he’s progressed during a recovery period that was projected to take 10-12 weeks. The team went 6-0-3 during a nine-match stretch without DeRo before losing to Houston last Sunday in the first leg of the Eastern Championship.

“I feel alright. It’s day-to-day,” De Rosario said. “I’ve been [supporting the team] off the field. Hopefully I could transpire my words into actions if I get the chance. That’ll be the goal.”

Whether or not United’s playmaker starts the match or comes in as a sub is still a big question. But De Rosario is more focused on D.C. United scoring the first goal on Sunday in fear of an even steeper uphill climb for the club in its comeback attempt.

“One goal,” De Rosario said. “That’s what it is. That’s what we’ve got to focus on. With the fans coming out and showing support, the whole city of D.C. backing the team, we’re confident we can do it.”

The Canadian scored seven goals and assisted 12 more in 25 starts this season. And while he hasn’t played in a match in roughly two months, he appeared sharp Tuesday. Since the start of the playoffs, he’s been upgraded from "out" to "probable."

“I’m happy. It’s nice to be out here playing,” De Rosario said. “This is what I love doing and it’s what I’m passionate about. It’s nice to be out here with the guys. It felt real good to travel with them and support them.”

As for United’s other injured players – namely Chris Pontius, Brandon McDonald and Marcelo Saragosa, who all came off against Houston – Ashton said simply, “We’ll evaluate every day.”

Nick Cammarota covers D.C. United for MLSsoccer.com