A caveat: The team is still in the middle of preseason, finished up in Arizona, but still with additional stuff to do in DC as well as the Carolina Challenge Cup. The team is likely to still change before opening night against Kansas City March 10th, but I have a radio spot on Thursday where I’m going to talk about the team, and I thought I should have my thoughts ready to consume. So, when we sign Kaka to a 10 year deal, and trade the rest of the team for cupcakes, my preview may be slightly out of date.
36 points. That’s what DC United finished with last season, and even without the context of what other teams had, that is an unimpressive number. If you recall, late in the last season DC had multiple games in hand, and needed to just win a few of those to sneak into the playoffs. But injuries to Dejan Jakovic (he of the Laffy Taffy hamstrings) and Chris Pontius showed the lack of depth DC had, and the team fell apart at the end (The game vs Chicago at home, conceding twice at home in injury time, was the WORST thing I’ve experienced in person). Charlie Davies fell out of favor with Ben Olsen, and started 1 of the last 4 games of the season, when scoring goals was of paramount importance. Charlie’s inability to create his own chances, decline in speed, and his tendency to try to draw contact instead of go for goal had to have contributed to Olsen’s decision making process.
Missing the playoffs yet again, (since 2008 and counting…) caused the club to turnover a large portion of its roster. Here’s who left, and where they went:
- Clyde Simms- to New England in Re-entry Draft
- Marc Burch- to Seattle in Re-entry Draft
- Blake Brettschneider- cut, on trial with New England
- Brandon Barklage- cut, on trial with NY
- Joseph Ngwenya- cut, sent to wander the desert
- Charlie Davies- option not picked up, return to Sochaux, and has already made an appearance
- Jed Zayner- cut, has no working legs
- Santino Quaranta- “retired”, now playing in India for almost $200k for 3 months work
- Devon McTavish- retired, now doing podcasts
- Steven Cronin- cut
- Austin da Luz- cut
That’s a lot of players. Boy, I sure hope the team signed people to replace them. Well, whaddya know!?
- Robbie Russell- Acquired from RSL for the league’s most traded player, Allocation Money (Al $$, for short), Russell has been on Olsen’s radar for over a year, and people with the team had told me just as much. Russell will slot in at RB, and it will take injury or the apocalypse to move him from that spot. Russell has shown himself to be very valuable to RSL, and has already gotten a sweet DC United tattoo, so you know he’s at least somewhat committed.
- Danny Cruz- Acquired from Houston for Al $$’s cousin, little Al $ (Partial allocation). Brought in to provide competition for Najar and injury cover for the inevitable serious injury to a major contributor. Started for Houston throughout the playoffs, and looks like a valuable addition.
- Emiliano Dudar- Acquired from Young Boys in the Swiss League on a free transfer. Having not really seen him in action, I will talk about the attributes that everyone who HAS seen him has said; he’s tall. That’s pretty much the only consensus. I will reserve judgement, because people thought Juan Manuel Pena looked good in preseason, and uh, yeah. Interesting thing about Dudar; he suffered a concussion SO BAD that he was in a coma. It’s a good thing this team has no history of players getting concussed.
- Hamdi Salihi- Ok, now we’re talking. Acquired from Rapid Vienna, Salihi is the team’s second designated player, and is essentially Davies’ replacement. The Albania has an impressive scoring record (53 goals in 90 matches with Rapid) and was being pursued by Rangers and Celtic. Luckily for him, he didn’t sign for Rangers, or they’d be paying him in Haggis.
- Marcelo Saragosa- As I’ve stated before, when people who are talking about your skill-set keep repeating the same words, it usually means the player is one dimensional. In this player’s case, the buzzword is “bite”. So, he’s going to bite people, I guess.
- Maicon Santos- Remember when this guy was scoring lots of goals for Chivas? Yeah, that was a little while ago. Santos is the new Ngwenya, but I can promise he’ll score more (read: >1).
DCU also nabbed two players thru the Superdraft and the Supplemental, Nick DeLeon and Lance Rozeboom. DeLeon, selected 6th overall, was said to fall to DCU due to a bad combine. If the teams ahead of DCU were drafting exclusively on how players do with strangers over a short time, than DCU should thank them for being idiots. One statistical note about DeLeon, in his senior season, he lead the team with 76 shots, and only scored 6. So, the ball boys should be busy behind the visitor’s goal all year. Rozeboom has been scoring in preseason, and has impressed his teammates, so it’s safe to say he’ll sign a contract with the team soon.
There have been a number of trialists in camp who I will not cover, because all they are is dust in the wind, man.
Things to watch for:
1) De Rosario’s contract situation and potential regression
DeRo was lights out last year, winning the MVP, scoring a ton of goals, and carried this team on his back for half the season. As has been the story his whole career, De Ro is looking for his payday, and for whatever reason, MLS is unwilling to make the major financial commitment to make the player happy. DCU has little to no role in these negotiations, so we’ll have to hope the DeRo understands that, and still gives 100%. If no deal is reached, he’s a free agent after the 2012 season. Additionally, he’s one year older, and it would be hard to believe he can replicate his form last year for an entire season with DCU. Players like Najar, Pontius, and Salhi will have to contribute in a big way for this team to be successful.
2) A Healthy Boskovic?
Branko Boskovic has had two good games for DCU in his 2 seasons in Washington, and those two games happened to be immediately preceding his season ending knee injury suffered in Open Cup play. By all accounts, Boskovic is in the best shape he’s been in since his arrival, and the team is counting on him to be a creative playmaker and be the player he has been in Austria and for his national team.
3) RFK’s last stand?
I won’t get too deep into the weeds here, but DCU is still working with Events DC to secure a lease at RFK for the 2012 season. With no stadium deal in sight, and the process moving forward in Baltimore, this may be near the end for DCU in Washington. There are lots of moving parts and possibilities, but at a certain point, businessmen can’t continue to lose money, so something has to give.