Mar 1, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT
Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. First kick is March 2.
No. 1 in the East is D.C. United:
Significant additions and subtractions: The great news for D.C. United: the weight of those big salaries for DP striker Hamdi Salihi and highly paid midfielder Brank Boskovic (once a DP and still on a big salary in 2012) has been lifted. Neither came close to justifying their big numbers, so this really does represent significant addition by subtraction around RFK Stadium.
On the other hand, a lost that actually will be felt is Andy Najar, the talented, home-grown Honduran international who had added even more value with his move to right back. He was sold to Anderlecht in the off-season.
The club prudently added veteran depth (without breaking the bank on it) in guys like John Thorrington and James Riley. Neither will threaten to bust into All-Star status this year, but both carry the hard-earned scars of years in MLS and won’t miss a trick in 2013. Thorrington could be an absolute steal if he can stay healthy.
Carlos Ruiz is back in MLS. Sigh. Some of us ask: is that a good thing or a bad thing? (In the linked piece, I put the over/under on his stay at “6 months” … and was promptly informed that I had set a soft line, with everyone rushing to take the imaginary “under.”)
Strengths: The roster has a strong balance of young, old and those key glue men, the 26-28 year olds right in the middle. It’s that talented bunch of “youth” that remains most impressive and intriguing, even with Najar’s loss. Perry Kitchen keeps maturing, now a solid, third-year MLS starter at holding midfield – and he’s just 20. Nick DeLeon, full of pace, pep and promise as an outside, attacking midfielder is 22. So is goalkeeper Bill Hamid, another third-year starter.
Pressure points: You can rightly ask whether United general manager Dave Kasper did enough to reinforce a back line that simply was not good enough in 2013. (Or, did they do enough overall.) United’s defense was far more solid over the last few weeks, but that was mostly about strategic shifts following Dwayne De Rosario’s late-season injury.
Frustratingly inconsistent Lionard Pajoy and just plain frustrating Ruiz as first-choice strikers? Hmmm. Sounds iffy, at very best. (Pontius and De Rosario can also play at forward, depending on manager Ben Olsen wants it configured.)
Finally, you cannot talk pressure points around D.C. United without mentioning the club’s wildly unsustainable stadium situation. Historic as it is (and as festive as it can be for Major League Soccer matches) it remains a colossal financial drain on the club. Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber has said for years that solving the organization’s woeful, harmful facility situation is a league priority.
Difference maker: It really is a darn pity De Rosario (pictured) cannot be around for this weekend’s opener, nor for next week’s home opener at RFK; DCU’s hearth, soul and chief creator is suspended for the first two matches. Past this early, avoidable silliness, all looks swell. “De Ro” will be 35 in May, but the guy is a fiend for taking care of himself. If he’s losing any zip, he’s hiding it awfully well. De Rosario’s raw numbers certainly are not reflecting a decline; 7 goals and 12 assists in 2012 represent healthy output, especially considering a long dry spell last spring.
Potential breakout player: There really are some wonderful, evocative options around RFK – more or less depending on your definition of “breakout.” Pontius, so strong over his time already at RFK, has the stuff of stardom and regular U.S. national team involvement. He just needs a little luck and some help in timing to break into the upper echelon of MLS stars. Hamid, Kitchen and DeLeon are valued youngsters with potential to rise (in 2013 or later) into Best XI conversations.
Bottom line: It would be easier to feel great about United, which came so confoundedly close to an MLS Cup appearance in 2012 in Olsen’s second year in charge, if only the rear guard was a wee bit stronger. The back four is OK, a little less so when backed by a young goalkeeper who still has the occasional yukky blunder in him. Other than that, there’s so much to like about a young team and a young coach that is still growing into its big boy pants – and just might be all the way into them this year.
Jun 19, 2013, 7:35 PM EDT
There’re no shortage of players to praise after the U.S. completes a nine-out-of-nine run.
Jun 19, 2013, 6:47 PM EDT
Most U.S. players were still in the locker room an hour after final whistle Tuesday … watching a basketball game. Hmmm.
Jun 19, 2013, 5:58 PM EDT
Even while struggling, LA’s still the standard, but can they turn things around enough to keep Portland from the top of the West.
Jun 19, 2013, 5:25 PM EDT
Neymar’s show compounded problems for CONCACAF’s champions.
Jun 19, 2013, 4:52 PM EDT
The 42-year-old American revealed he is taking coaching courses to prepare for whenever his career is over.
Jun 19, 2013, 4:17 PM EDT
Some of those old issues of communication and understanding between Jones and Michael Bradley were on display once again in Utah:
Jun 19, 2013, 3:32 PM EDT
Montréal can open a gap atop the East with a win tonight. If Houston springs the upset, they’ll be within one point of the conference leaders.
Jun 19, 2013, 2:44 PM EDT
He didn’t exactly say much, but Pepe Reina’s club is Liverpool – at least, right now.
Jun 19, 2013, 12:04 PM EDT
Cameras caught a message from Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, could it foreshadow a move?
Jun 19, 2013, 11:22 AM EDT
Fabio Capello is the latest manager to say “no” to the defending Ligue 1 champions.
Jun 19, 2013, 10:23 AM EDT
Liverpool take a huge net loss on the 24-year-old while West Ham set their transfer fee record.
Jun 19, 2013, 9:48 AM EDT
Tragedy struck Chivas USA’s youth squad Monday night.
Jun 19, 2013, 9:15 AM EDT
At the call of fans and media alike, the FA Cup final at Wembley will return to its post-league date.
Jun 19, 2013, 8:35 AM EDT
The United States had the perfect lineup to slowly whittle away at the Honduras defense before it finally broke.
Jun 19, 2013, 7:45 AM EDT
The 24-year-old American has found a new team after spending 5 seasons at Villa Park.
Jun 19, 2013, 7:08 AM EDT
The Premier League has released its fixture list for the 2013/2014 season in its entirety. Find out the opening fixtures plus your favorite team’s derby here!
Jun 19, 2013, 2:00 AM EDT
Feel free to ask yourself at this point: where would the United States be in World Cup qualifying without its young, in-form striker:
- Stock Rising: United States men whose values are rising out of Salt Lake 0
- MLS Preview: Portland Timbers at LA Galaxy 0
- Goal, assist from Neymar give Brazil win, prolong Mexico’s woes 1
- MLS Preview: Houston Dynamo at Montréal Impact 0
- USA can theoretically clinch a World Cup berth in their next match 4
- Graham Zusi keeps making it harder for Landon Donovan to get back into U.S. national team (27)
- What we learned from Tuesday’s U.S. win over Panama (19)
- Which U.S. men have locked up World Cup roster spots? (16)
- Three huge positives to take from USA’s convincing win over Panama (15)
- Broadcast of U.S. v. Panama was second highest audience for World Cup Qualifier (14)
- Posnanski: How Heat won a game of mistakes
- LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 4 pregame show
- PHT: Can Blackhawks solve Rask in Game 4?
- PFT: Report: Hernandez accused of prior shooting
- CSN: Report: Hernandez 'not ruled out' as suspect
- GTC: Tiger pulls out of AT&T citing elbow issue
- HBT: Biogenesis suspensions still likely coming
- Play Video: Police clash with protesters in Brazil
- Play Video: Highlights: Sounders win in final minutes
- Play Video: Highlights: Revolution dismantle Galaxy
- Play Video: What does New York FC have to do to succeed?
- Play Video: The Hype: Bending the screen like Beckham
- Play Video: Galaxy's Rogers talks about coming out to the public