With Dema Kovalenko and Mike Petke suspended, it creates a big hole for DC United at defensive midfield, arguably the one position they have the least depth. Even though Petke isn't a D-mid, his suspension hurtrs the options because it weakens the backline and two of the other options for D-mid are defenders. HudsTrask could start either Ryan Nelsen or Bryan Namoff at D-mid, but with Petke unavailable, both are needed at centerback and left back, respectively. Now, this is where I fault Ray for not having played the rookies earlier in the season when there were chances to get David Stokes and Brian Carroll, and for that matter, Doug Warren, playing time to get them some minutes here and there. Ray could start Nelsen or Namoff into D-mid and start Stokes, either at right back (with Ivanov moving into the middle) or centrally (either next to Nelsen if Namoff plays mid or next to Prideaux if it was Nelsen who moves up). But, doing that now would mean having a 21-year old rookie making his MLS debut on the road AND in a crucial playoff game. If Ray hasn't played Stokes yet, I doubt very seriously he'll play him now, though I guess it's not impossible. I do believe that if he had given Stokes spot duty through out the season, he'd be more confident using him in this situation. Similarly, Carroll played D-mid at Wake Forest and with the U20 and U23 teams but Ray hasn't used him all year and I don't see that happening now. Again, had he given him some minutes here and there in games that weren't in doubt - or even in some that were - he might be more confident in throwing him into the mix in this crucial game. So, with Nelsen and Namoff needed in the backline and Carroll likely not getting the nod, who does that leave? Chino Alegria would appear to be the leading candidate and if that doesn't make you nervous, you haven't been paying attention. Chino does have some experince and skill and he certainly plays with heart. But, he is often physically overmatched, both in the pace and size departments and with him on the field. I have visions of Kyle Martino having the time and space he needs to spray balls around to the Crew's forwards. He ain't ideal, but I suspect that's what we'll see. I mean, Marco doesn't have the workrate to play D-mid, and while Earnie does, he's never played there before. Same with Convey. I suppose Ray could move Convey to D-mid but with Olsen out, that creates a gap on the flank, though Ray could move Earnie to right mid, start Marco in the middle, play Convey at D-mid and start Thiago with Cerritos. But, that's a LOT of guys playing out of position and I just don't see Ray doing that. So, it again comes back to Chino. Does anyone have any other suggestions?