Reigning MVP is out at least for one match

D.C. United's hopes for ending a four-year playoff drought took a hit without it even playing a game. Reigning MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario is set to miss United's next match and possibly multiple weeks after suffering a knee injury while representing Canada in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying loss at Panama on Tuesday.

De Rosario left the game after just six minutes and was scheduled to have an MRI upon his return to Washington on Wednesday.

"It might be an MCL [injury]," Canadian coach Stephen Hart told reporters.

De Rosario, 34, has seven goals and 12 assists (second in MLS) this season. He has played in all but one of United's 27 regular-season games (25 starts), and he scored his 100th career regular-season goal in United's 2-2 draw with New York last month.

United (12-10-5, 41 points) is one point out of the fifth and final MLS playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with seven matches remaining. It can improve on a franchise record 13-match unbeaten run at RFK Stadium with a win or tie against New England (7-14-7, 28 points) on Saturday.

"We are a different team when he's on the field," midfielder Branko Boskovic said upon learning about De Rosario's injury after practice Wednesday. "Now in this moment, we have also good players in the group, but he is the leader."

Losing the Canadian playmaker could have a dramatic impact. Behind De Rosario in assists are Boskovic, Andy Najar and Nick DeLeon, who have four apiece. Chris Pontius (10 goals, two assists) could be called to replace De Rosario in the top line, while an increasing load could fall on Boskovic, who is best suited on United to create offense in the central midfield.

"I don't think it's a domino effect," Pontius said. "We gotta insert someone in the lineup, and that person's got to do their job."

De Rosario is also Canada's all-time leading scorer with 20 goals, and his absence could hurt the national team's chances for reaching the final round of 2014 World Cup qualification.