Skip to content

Question to answer in MLS preseason camp: D.C. United

Jan 22, 2013, 7:00 PM EST

Chicago Fire v D.C. United Getty Images

(Through the week we’ll look at three Major League Soccer clubs per day, considering what they need to accomplish and what questions deserve answers during preseason training camps. Opening day in MLS is March 2.)

Some clubs use preseason to build or rebuild. Some are down to adjusting and tweaking.

The luckiest (Hello, D.C. United!) can use winter rehearsals to refine, fine tune and generally keep things pointed in the right direction.

That isn’t to say that D.C. United manager Ben Olsen and his club don’t have work ahead. They do, especially on defense.

But given the upward trend around RFK and all the talented young players, there’s a lot to be excited about for a club that came quite close to safe arrival into last year’s MLS Cup final.

In the first of 18 preseasons without longtime club staple Kevin Payne at the top of the organizational chart, here are the questions Olsen and Co. need to answer:

  • Are the right pieces present to build a better back line?

It’s a tough call. Major League Soccer’s restrictive salary policies mean clubs can seldom be strong all over the field. Center backs Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald aren’t bad, but they aren’t MLS elite class. Nor are the outside backs Daniel Woolard, Robbie Russell and Chris Korb.

There’s plenty of “pretty good,” but is that enough? Consider that last year’s defense was 7th among 10 playoffs teams in goals allowed in the regular season (43). Again, not bad … but nothing special.

A big piece of the back line preseason puzzle will be unwrapped when United finds out once and for all about Andy Najar, whose extended loan to Belgium power Anderlecht looks more and more like a transfer in the making.

  • Just exactly what is the best spot for Chris Pontius?

Let’s be clear about this: Pontius can be successful as an attacking presence out of midfield or as a striker. But in his fifth year as a pro, it should now be about getting the very best out of Pontius. (By the way, now that Omar Gonzalez has finally found his way into an extended U.S. national team camp, Pontius officially replaces the Galaxy center back for most U.S. supporters as the talented man who most needs to be recognized internationally for his, you know, talent.)

It’s all tied, of course, to where Olsen uses De Rosario in 2013.  Whatever the arrangement, the club should get Pontius into a spot and let him be the best that he can be – which is surely a lot.

  • What’s the best preseason approach for a hectic year ahead?

There is so much attacking talent around RFK, but several of the critical pieces come with their own set of 2013 challenges. May as well begin dealing with them now, in the preseason.

Dwayne De Rosario turns 35 in May, and he’ll presumably be part of Canada’s Gold Cup squad in the summer. He’ll need proper pacing.

Pontius is coming off injury and doesn’t need any preseason setbacks. Bet on seeing him in the U.S. assembly for Gold Cup, by the way.

Nick DeLeon slumped in the middle of the year, and it’s fair to speculate that the dreaded “rookie wall” had something to do with it. He needs the right kind of long-term conditioning during preseason.

MORE in ProSoccerTalk’s preseason camp series:

Up Next: F.C. Dallas

Latest Posts
  1. Watch Live: Documentary showcasing Arsenal’s “Invincibles”

    Mar 1, 2015, 11:15 AM EST

    Arsenal

    From 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, watch the “Invincibles” documentary live online.

  2. Arsenal 2-0 Everton: Giroud, Rosicky down toothless Toffees

    Mar 1, 2015, 11:00 AM EST

    Giroud Getty Images

    Olivier Giroud atoned for his misses midweek with the game’s only goal as Everton had little to offer.

  3. Three things we learned from Liverpool’s win vs. Manchester City

    Mar 1, 2015, 9:15 AM EST

    Liverpool v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    The Reds put in a stunning display, as City stumble yet again.

  4. VIDEO: Coutinho curler gives Manchester City nightmares again

    Mar 1, 2015, 9:01 AM EST

    Coutinho Getty Images

    Copycat! A repeat of Jordan Henderson’s earlier strike saw the Brazilian down Manchester City late again, reminiscent of last year’s match.

  5. Liverpool 2-1 Manchester City: Pair of Reds stunners stupefy City

    Mar 1, 2015, 8:51 AM EST

    Liverpool Getty Images

    Jordan Henderson opened things up with a fabulous strike, and Philippe Coutinho copied the script with the late winner.

  6. Watch Live: Arsenal vs Everton (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Mar 1, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    Mertesacker AP

    Per Mertesacker has been dropped following Arsenal’s Champions League disappointment midweek.

  7. WATCH: Does Arsenal need a managerial change? Mustoe says yes

    Mar 1, 2015, 7:59 AM EST

    Wenger AP

    On Premier League Live, Robbie Mustoe says he believes Arsenal need a change at the top, a move that would surely send shockwaves throughout English soccer.

  8. VIDEO: Jordan Henderson puts Liverpool ahead with glittering goal

    Mar 1, 2015, 7:33 AM EST

    Henderson Getty Images

    Jordan Henderson opened the scoring at Anfield with a stunning goal inside 15 minutes.

  9. Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Manchester City (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Mar 1, 2015, 6:35 AM EST

    Rodgers Getty Images

    Brendan Rodgers starts with Raheem Sterling up front, but plenty of changes along his teamsheet.

  10. MLS roundup: LA Galaxy, Orlando, Red Bulls, Union, RSL, 13 others in preseason finales

    Feb 28, 2015, 11:11 PM EST

    Avaya Stadium — Photo credit: LA Galaxy Avaya Stadium — Photo credit: LA Galaxy

    18 teams in 13 games to wrap up the 2015 MLS preseason. Your one-stop shop for all the day’s action.

  11. John Carver: Only the result mattered in Newcastle United’s victory over Aston Villa

    Feb 28, 2015, 8:55 PM EST

    John Carver, Newcastle United FC John Carver, Newcastle United FC

    Forget the performance, all John Carver cares about is the three points. Sometimes that’s how it is.

  12. FA chairman Greg Dyke wants more technology in soccer, but no one’s listening to him

    Feb 28, 2015, 7:45 PM EST

    Newcastle United v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Dyke’s frustrated at the resistance to even explore and experiment with technological aids, and he’s 100% right to be.

  13. Promotion Watch: Leaders Derby, Middlesbrough fighting Watford, Bournemouth for PL places

    Feb 28, 2015, 6:27 PM EST

    Watford FC Getty Images

    The top of the Championship is as tight as it’s ever been. With only three spots to come up, who’ll be in the Premier League next year?

  14. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona bounce back; More struggles for AC Milan

    Feb 28, 2015, 6:04 PM EST

    Luis Suarez & Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona Luis Suarez & Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona

    Barcelona keep Spain’s title race close, while AC Milan just hope to finish inside Italy’s top-half.

  15. VIDEO: Sherwood is “ramping up the pressure” on relegation-threatened Aston Villa

    Feb 28, 2015, 4:43 PM EST

    Newcastle United v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

    Can Sherwood do the trick, or will his loud ways alienate a club hoping to avoid its first ever trip into the Championship?

  16. WATCH: Alberto Bueno scores four goals in Rayo rout of Levante

    Feb 28, 2015, 4:33 PM EST

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-RAYO-ATLETICO Getty Images

    The Real Madrid outcast scored his ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th goals of the season in pushing Rayo Vallecano into 10th place.

  17. WATCH: Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco combine for Jozy Altidore’s first Toronto FC goal

    Feb 28, 2015, 4:18 PM EST

    Joze Altidore, Toronto FC Joze Altidore, Toronto FC

    It’s goal No. 1 of many for TFC’s $30-million man. Credit to TFC’s other $35-million and $25-million men for the fancy build-up.

  18. Premier League Sunday preview: Big boys tangle ahead of League Cup final

    Feb 28, 2015, 3:45 PM EST

    Howard rushed off his line to great effect in the first half to thwart Arsenal's offense. Getty Images

    Both sides of Merseyside are in action against a pair of Top Three contenders as the Premier League sends up two great appetizers.

  19. Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund and Bayern flying high with big goal performances

    Feb 28, 2015, 3:11 PM EST

    Germany Soccer Bundesliga AP

    Bayern made 577 more passes than its opponents. That’s bonkers.