Sunday, February 20, 2011

D.C. United Preseason

Is There Such A Thing As A "Loud" Offseason?

So, D.C. United was horrible last year. If you missed that, then there is no real reason for you to be reading my posts. Not that there is otherwise. Anyway, DC United has not been quiet in the off-season, beginning with signing Ben Olsen as permanent head coach (a process that was handled poorly and was slightly embarrassing). I'm tempted to list all the changes because there are so many, but I want to talk/write about some of them. Let's jump in, shall we?


United shed a number of players. Underperforming and highly-paid strikers, Pablo Hernandez and Danny Allsopp are gone. Not highly-paid, but still underperforming striker Adam Christman was sent packing as well. Jaime Moreno was rather ignominiously forced into retirement, a move that angered a number of the D.C. United faithful, particularly in the way it was handled. Maybe - he's looking for another team that will have him for one more season. At any rate, he is not on the team roster. So, of D.C.'s strikers from last year, none remain. Not surprising for a team that had record-breakingly bad offense.
Much of the midfield remained intact. Rodney Wallace (who wants to be a defender) was involved in a trade to Portland and Carlos Valera was waived. Neither was a large part of the team last year (Wallace was injured and Valera joined with much of the season elapsed). Boskovic, Najar, Tino, Pontius, Simms, King, Morsink, Shanosky are all still with the team.
In defense, Pena (yes, he played for D.C. United last year) is no longer with the team. Recently, Julius James was waived which surprised many who felt that he was D.C.'s best defender for the later part of the season (and was far cheaper than Dejan Jakovic, his partner in central defense).
Troy Perkins was sent to Portland. Although many expected Perkins' season to improve from his previous one, his massive salary was moved off D.C. United's books in exchange for another 'keeper.
To all of these players, I wish the best. They were part of a poor team that may have made everyone look worse than they were. I suspect all of them will have greater success elsewhere.

It's Either Cold or Hot, often Humid, the Infrastructure Is A Bad Joke, Traffic Is A Nightmare, and Housing Prices Are Ridiculous

"Welcome to D.C." to a number of players (for expectations, see the section heading above). Having no strikers at all, D.C. picked out two forwards in the "re-entry drafts" - Joseph Ngwenya and Josh Wolff. Neither of these strikers are jaw-dropping acquisitions. Wolff has been and probably will continue to be dangerous, but he is past his prime. Ngwenya was never able to convert his athletic prowess in goals - here's hoping he has a renaissance season, but I wouldn't bet on it.
The big acquisition in the attack (and overall) has been U.S. national team striker and Sochaux man, Charlie Davies. Long story short, the night before the final 2010 World Cup qualifier, Davies was involved in a horrific traffic accident in D.C. One of the other passengers lost her life and Davies was horribly injured. Horribly. The sort of injuries that most of us would use to stay on disability payments for a half-dozen years. Davies, however, is possessed of mutant healing powers and was mobile in time for the World Cup (although not fully fit by all estimates except his own). He feels that he was not being giving the opportunity to regain his starting spot at Sochaux and has come to D.C. to prove to the world (and Bob Bradley) that he is the blazingly fast and ruthless striker that he was before his injuries. He is a risky acquisition - he is possibly fragile or may not have and never will fully recover from his injuries. Ben Olsen took a long hard look and has decided he is worth risk. If Davies is fit and performs, he can almost single-handedly end D.C.'s scoring drought.
The midfield has had two big signings - the first being Perry Kitchen, who probably will not be playing in the midfield, but as a central defender. Nevertheless, he played as a defensive mid last year and I'm including him as a midfielder for now. Olsen and his counterparts in the DC brain-trust considered him to be the best overall player in the college draft and thought he would be picked before their number three pick. He wasn't and now D.C. has him.
The bigger signing, no offense to Mr. Kitchen, has been that of Dax McCarty. McCarty was involved in a trade for Rodney Wallace. McCarty is only slightly older than Wallace and was part of FC Dallas' drive to the MLS Cup last year. He recently captained the U.S. national team (it was a B/B- team of young players being examined by Bob Bradley) in a friendly. He also scored a sick bicycle-kick goal in U.S. team training camp which was captured on film and has D.C. fans salivating into their beer cups (don't look for bicycle kick goals from McCarty during the season; it is his creativity, youth, and skill that has us drooling).
D.C. also recently added Fred to the roster - not an exciting addition and one that has had a far-from-unified fan response. Personally, I don't have a big problem with it - he was overpaid when he was here last, but I assume that has been corrected and I do think he is an MLS-quality winger, lack of scoring notwithstanding.
D.C. has not made any dramatic moves in defense. A Uruguayan defender, Rodrigo Brasesco, lauded by those who follow South American football more closely than I do, has been added and is expected to easily earn a starting position. As I mentioned earlier, it appears that Kitchen will be competing for a spot in central defense as well. D.C. also acquired Chris Korb in the draft, but he is expected mainly to provide cover. Similarly, Daniel Woolard was added to the roster, but is not a projected starter. Home-grown defender Ethan White was also added to the roster; he too does not figure into the starting eleven picture at this point and is projected to be a reserve.
In goal, D.C. made two acquisitions while actually only attempting to make one. United acquired Steve Cronin from Portland in exchange for Troy Perkins. It seemed a reasonable trade as Perkins had been disappointing and D.C. had been attempt to acquire Cronin before Perkins became available. Unfortunately, Cronin has broken his wrist in pre-season and with Bill Hamid still recovering from shoulder surgery (he'll be back soon, but the first few games are questionable), the Black-and-Red were considering putting me in goal after my showing in our indoor league last year. Fortunately (unfortunately for me), D.C. had acquired recently-retired Pat Onstad, not as a keeper, but as a goalkeeping coach. He has agreed to come out of retirement for an unspecified period, I assume simply to kill my dreams of ever sharing the field at RFK with my heroes.

So Much for Closure

In conclusion, there is far too much left to write for this to be concluded properly and I hope to write more. Of course, since I haven't written since before Christmas, more frequent posting may be unlikely. Nevertheless, I have plenty of thoughts, comments, and concerns before the season really starts going. I have left off a couple of the other United acquisitions and releases, aiming mostly to hot the big ones. In terms of D.C.'s adding and dropping of players, I have to think that D.C. has done a pretty good job. There remains of the question of who will stick the ball in the net if Davies isn't 100%, but Olsen and company have added some exciting players and D.C.'s suddenly young team looks to have improved upon last season.

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