D.C. United coach Ben Olsen hypothesized after making the playoffs that his team would have to make a “very deep” run in the MLS playoffs in order to have a chance that Dwayne De Rosario might be able to contribute.

While De Rosario still seems unlikely to play a role when United makes its official return to the playoffs against New York on Saturday at RFK Stadium – he was listed as OUT in the league’s injury report earlier in the week – there are some indications that he could certainly be available earlier than MLS Cup itself on Dec. 1.

Last year’s league MVP has steadily increased his workload in training, from light running to joining in some training drills to even participating in shooting practice. On Friday he was taking part in a small sided game with D.C. United’s reserves.

I asked about the improving health of his roster – but the question wasn’t supposed to be about De Rosario. It was supposed to be directed to potential returns of Daniel Woolard, who was practicing with a full helmet, the kind worn by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, and Robbie Russell, who has seen minutes recently off the bench.

“It’s nice to have options,” Olsen said. “We have a full squad, and to see Dwayne essentially put himself into training today. I didn’t even know he was in training today until I saw him playing.”

Olsen’s demeanor was lighthearted. But De Rosario is making a serious run at getting back on the field before D.C. United’s season is over.

In the meantime, United’s back line of Andy Najar, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic and Chris Korb is unlikely to change against New York.

“Russell’s got a lot of experience, and he’s been through this,” Olsen said. “But I think Korb has done very well of late, and I think the back four has been pretty settled.”