Forward has been out since Sept. with injury

Dwayne De Rosario is poised to make a dramatic return to the field for D.C. United with his team facing a massive deficit in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference finals.

Sidelined since the first week in September with left knee injury, the reigning MLS MVP could provide a key offensive boost for United, which has been ravaged by injuries and suspensions and needs at least a two-goal victory against Houston on Sunday at RFK Stadium after losing 3-1 on the road last weekend.

"A lot further along than I think we would've expected," United assistant coach Chad Ashton said when asked about De Rosario's status. "I think we're very optimistic he can play."

The 34-year-old playmaker had seven goals and 12 assists before suffering a left MCL sprain while playing in a World Cup qualifier for Canada against Panama on Sept. 11. The injury did not require surgery, and De Rosario, who was scheduled to miss 10 to 12 weeks, has been training fully for almost two weeks.

"I feel alright," De Rosario said. "I'm taking it day to day."

He also traveled with United to its playoff games in New York and Houston to be a vocal presence in the locker room. Sunday's loss to the Dynamo was United's first in 10 games (6-1-3) since De Rosario was injured.

"Hopefully, I can transpire my words into actions now when I do get the chance," De Rosario said.

Should he play against the Dynamo, his lack of match fitness due to the layoff is expected to prevent him from playing a full 90 minutes or more.

"Limited minutes, for sure," Ashton said.

D.C. United has a number of other injuries to monitor during the week. Chris Pontius (groin), Marcelo Saragosa (hamstring) and Brandon McDonald (calf) all left the first game early. Ashton said they all will be evaluated on day-by-day basis.

Aside from goalkeeper Joe Willis, the remainder of United's starters last weekend did not practice on Monday. The team announced that more than 17,000 tickets have been sold for Sunday's match, and a reduced-capacity sellout of 19,647 is expected.