Dec 17, 2010

DC United's Roster Shuffle

The names on the backs of jerseys next year for DC United will be a great deal different than the names that put up the worst season in club history last year.  Ben Olsen, Kevin Payne and Dave Kasper has been busy, not only with the various drafts, but signing a couple more homegrown players (well one last year and one this year). Olsen & Co. also grabbed a couple of veterans in the Re-Entry draft and have been wheeling and dealing.  The question is, will all the trading around help the club get better.  You would think it would have to, because, seriously, they can't get any worse.

With the SuperDraft (why do they call it a SUPER Draft--why not just call it a draft) just a couple of weeks away, here is that status of the DC United Roster

Steve Cronin and Bill Hamid.  Can't complain about this position and wasn't complaining when Troy Perkins name was listed there.  I would put Perkins and Cronin on roughly the same level but Cronin costs less.  I would be surprised to see another keeper here, but you never know with the Reserve League making a comeback this year.

Marc Burch, Dejan Jakovic, Julius James, Devon McTavish, Ethan White, Jed Zayner.
This position is a bit light on the depth.  Julius James emerged last year as a reliable, if not flashy defender, which was good because the injury bug was killing DC United last year.  Both Burch and McTavish are expected to be healthy at the start of the year.  If this was my only list of defenders to choose from, the back line would be Burch on the left, Jakovic and James in the middle and White on the right.  But to be honest, I am not sold on that idea.

With the draft coming up, I would expect DC United to be going in for a central defender, perhaps a center back like Akron's Zarek Valentin or Cal's A.J. Soares.  Valentin's appeal, if he comes out to the draft, is that as a Generation Addidas player, he would not count against the salary cap.  But Soares looks to be the best back in the draft with some comparisons' to NYRB's Tim Ream.  Given that defenders can usually make the jump from college to MLS a lot easier than other position players, DC is almost sure to use their only first round draft pick on a defender.

I would also expect that DC United will look for trades as well. United is a bit heavy with midfielders and is certainly on the prowl for more defensive help.  A foreign player is not out of the question as the number of senior international spots still sit open.

Branko Boskovic, Junior Carriero, Stephen King, Dax McCarty, Kurt Morsink, Andy Najar, Santino Quaranta, Conor Shanosky, Clyde Simms

There is talent here, but its record has been spotty.  Boskovic will need to really step up this year and start bossing things in the midfield, with Dax McCarty providing some box-to-box spark and Clyde Simms to do the dirty work at holding midfield, Boskovic might be able to do that which he has been more or less hired to do, play make.  Of this list, I would think Morsink is on the shakiest ground in terms of being left off the roster.  I would expect Najar and Quaranta to round out the midfield, which leaves a player like Junior Carriero on the outside looking in for mintues as an impact sub.  Najar is a winger, but I am not sure that Quaranta has that talent or speed.

Rumor is that DC might be shopping Clyde Simms around, which would make Stephen King next in line for that holding job, but that all depends on how Olsen sets the team up.

Adam Cristman, Pablo Hernandez, Joseph Ngwenya, Chris Pontius, Josh Wolff
Chris Pontius is trade bait and Cristman maybe waving good bye as well.  DC United has been hurting for goal scoring for a couple of years now and when your top goal scorers last year were an Australian who has left the club and a 17 year old midfielder, you know there are problems.  The addition of Wolff and Ngwenya brings some pace to the front line.  The problem is that Ngwenya has never scored more than 7 goals in season (and that in 2005) and has 17 goals in 102 games as a MLS player.  Not exactly someone you expect to find the back of the net regularly.  Ngwenya is not exactly an assist man either, with a staggering 8 in 102 games.  Wolff has in the past gotten a 10 goal season, most recently in 2009 for what is now Sporting KC.   He could, in theory do it again.

Here is the problem with both Wolff and Ngwenya--age.  They are 33 and 29 respectively.  While certainly not ready to be put out to pasture, there are some problems here.  Yes, Hernandez is young (24), but didn't exactly connect in his first season.  Perhaps now with an off season and training camp to settle in a bit better and find a role, Hernandez may make the step up.  I hope so because this position is still a bit shallow.

Could DC United use their second round draft pick on a striker?  Possible, this year's pool is heavy on midfielders and strikers, but I am thinking another international is more likely.

Right now, DC United have 22 First Team players, which means they have 8 slots including 6 developmental positions to fill.  With developmental players limited to 24 as the age cap, youth will come there and they will get regular minutes with the Reserve team.

With this roster though, Ben Olsen has a choice to make, does he go with a 3-5-2 like Tommy Soehn played, a more traditional 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1.  The latter two are the most likely, with a possible 4-4-1-1.

I could see a 4-4-2 like this:


But a 4-4-1-1 would look a bit different


But right now, I think, given the shakiness of DC United's back line last year, with this group of players, you will most likely see a 4-2-3-1


Tactically, you might see an asymmetric tilt to the left to give Najar some room to run and let Boskovic roam as he sees fit.  

The roster shuffle will continue until pre-season training, but right now, I am not happy with the movement.  The back line is still skaky, with only Ethan White adding some backbone.  While I think he can do it, I am not sure it is enough reinforcement.  Also, Olsen & Co. need to find a goal-scorer, even a basic fox in the box goal scorer will be helpful.  So far, I don't see DC United making a serious playoff push with this squad, although they almost certainly have to improve on last year's dismal failure.

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