>Friday Lunch Special: MLS Team Preview – DC United

Posted: February 25, 2011 in mls
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

>By Evan Ream, with help from the Intern

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now just 19 days away from the 2011 MLS regular season. I would like to welcome you all to the first of our MLS previews. Last year I thought I was badass for writing two articles (links please) previewing the entire season. Well this year, I am going to one up myself; or to be more accurate, 17 up myself. That’s right, with help from the intern, we are going to spam previews so hard for the next 19 days that you will be thinking this about our stuff from last year.
We will start off today with DC United (the worst team in the league last year), and work our way up the 2010 standings culminating in our preview of last year’s Supporter’s Shield winners, LA Galaxy and then the two expansion teams, Portland and Vancouver. Finally, the day the season starts we will have a comprehensive article compiling all of our predictions for awards and other miscellaneous things as well as our trophy and standings predictions. So without any further waiting, here is our inaugural team preview:
Last Year: 6-20-4 22 points, 8th in East, 16th overall
Key Losses: Jaime Moreno, Troy Perkins, Rodney Wallace
Key Additions: Dax McCarty, Charlie Davies, Perry Kitchen, Joseph Ngwenya, Josh Wolff, Rodrigo Brasesco, Pat Onstad (temporary), Fred
Projected Starting XI: Ben Olsen has been using a straight 4-4-2 in preseason. Olsen has many options and thus this lineup could change a lot. If everyone is healthy, I think this is the starting lineup used opening day, but it could be changed for a few reasons. Joseph Ngwenya has been impressive in preseason, and he could take either of the forward spots, though I think Olsen likes what the Pontius/Davies combination brings to the table. As far as the midfield goes, it looks as of now that Branko Boskovic is the odd man out; disappointing for the designated player. He has been playing well in preseason, but I think Olsen sees the four starters here as key players. Boskovic could and should still have an impact coming off the bench and starting a few games if players are tired, but he doesn’t look to be first choice as of now. Acquiring Dax McCarty was the biggest steal of the offseason. McCarty is one of the best players in the league and should show that this season. For all the good midfield moves that DC has made, I don’t understand the acquisition of the always underachieving Fred. Fred always showed flashes of brilliance but never consistency; he should be nothing more than an attacking substitute. Defensively, United seem to be content with what they have, due to the release of Julius James. They are clearly comfortable with the on loan Rodrigo Brasesco and Perry Kitchen. Look for the young Kitchen to beat out Brasesco in a backline that will surprise many. In goal, the youngster Hamid is the clear starter, but he appears to be out for the first couple of the games of the season due to shoulder surgery. With the backup (Steve Cronin) also out, United signed Pat Onstad who will likely start the first few games before giving way to the impressive Hamid.

Charlie Davies         Chris Pontius
Santino Quaranta          Dax McCarty          Clyde Simms          Andy Najar
Mark Burch         Dejan Jakovic         Perry Kitchen          Jed Zayner
Bill Hamid

Prognosis: No matter what, this team will be better than last year’s team, the only question is how much better? I happen to think that DC boasts both MLS_DC_United_Davies_Soccer.sff_s640x456the best quality and depth in their midfield in the entire league, which should be enough by itself to drive them to a playoff spot, not to mention what can happen if Charlie Davies proves successful and Chris Pontius, can actually stay on the field. This is a young team so there will be mistakes and sloppy play at points in the season, but this DC team is a dark horse contender for a top five finish as long as Dax stays healthy and Ben Olsen doesn’t make too many coaching mistakes.
The Intern’s Take: As previously mentioned, the pickup of Dax McCarty, who recently wore the captain’s armband for the USA against Chile, is huge for this team. Paired with last year’s Rookie of the Year, Andy Najar, DC’s midfield should be able to compete with some of the top teams in MLS this season. With service from McCarty, Charlie Davies should have plenty of opportunities to score, even if he is not 100% healthy. As many have said before, a 90% Davies is better than DC’s other forward options at 100%. Charlie Davies should help DC improve upon last year’s scoring rate of just 21 goals in 30 games, and will ideally give the back line a bit of a cushion, as they will be DC’s biggest weakness. Perry Kitchen is a great selection and based on the few games I saw him play for Akron last year, he will be a great asset to DC’s defense, while also being able to come forward in attack, perhaps firing off a few of these every once and a while. The fans at RFK may have a rough start to the season though, as DC’s first seven home games are all against teams that made the playoffs last year. DC needs to take a decent amount of points from these home games and stay competitive, perhaps even winning a few, to prove that they can be playoff material and establish themselves as contenders early on. With so many new faces on the team this year, it will take DC a considerable amount of time to establish chemistry and flow as a team. The biggest concern for DC must be that they do not play themselves out of the post season early on. As long as they can stay within sight of the playoffs, they will be in good shape, because once the chemistry on this team clicks they will be for real. The talent is there for a triumphant return form the last year’s bottom of the standings finish; it just depends on how soon the new group can play effectively together.

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