Skip to content

Major League Soccer team previews: D.C. UNITED

Mar 1, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT

DC United logo

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.)

Throwing balls at referees? Dropping points by losing your cool? Veterans caught head-butting opponents? There’s a trend here – and it’s got to stop.

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.

source: Getty Images

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.

(MORE: full roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

Latest Posts
  1. Reports: Manchester United submitted two bids for Gareth Bale over $110 million

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT

    Bale Getty Images

    Apparently Louis van Gaal really, really wants Gareth Bale on his team.

  2. Report: AZ Alkmaar speaking with Werder Bremen about Aron Johannsson

    Aug 3, 2015, 7:55 PM EDT

    Johannsson Getty Images

    Could the USMNT forward be thinking about a move to the Bundesliga?

  3. Brighton brings back club hero Bobby Zamora, fans explode with joy

    Aug 3, 2015, 7:05 PM EDT

    Zamora Getty Images

    Bobby Zamora has returned to his old club 12 years after leaving, and Brighton fans couldn’t be more excited.

  4. Agent says Gonzalo Higuain rejected Napoli contract extension

    Aug 3, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Higuain Getty Images

    Gonzalo Higuain won’t be leaving Napoli this summer, but he’s not impressed by the club’s feeble attempt at a contract extension.

  5. Juventus lose Sami Khedira for 2 months to hamstring tear

    Aug 3, 2015, 5:35 PM EDT

    Khedira Getty Images

    A massive blow to Juventus puts them on alert for midfield cover.

  6. Will this year’s Liverpool spending spree work better than the last?

    Aug 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    FirminoBenteke Getty Images

    Liverpool has spent big for the second straight summer, but it appears the Reds may have learned a valuable lesson.

  7. Lyon announces deal for Manchester United wing-back Rafael

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:48 PM EDT

    Rafael Getty Images

    Rafael’s rocky seven-year tenure with Manchester United is over as he heads to France.

  8. Premier League Goalkeeper preview: Who’s in our Top Five, and who switched clubs?

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    <> at Emirates Stadium on July 28, 2015 in London, England. Getty Images

    Not a great deal has changed in the world of Premier League goalkeepers this offseason, but among the differences is a huge one: Petr Cech has moved from Chelsea to Arsenal.

  9. Best starting lineups for all 20 Premier League teams – Do you agree?

    Aug 3, 2015, 2:25 PM EDT

    PST selects the strongest XI’s for each PL team ahead of the 2015-16 season. Let us know what you think.

  10. Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema out injured for Real Madrid

    Aug 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Real Madrid v Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Real Madrid v Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League

    Forwards both left off Real’s Audi Cup squad after training ground injuries.

  11. Monday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Van Dijk to Southampton, Benzema to Arsenal

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    All of the latest gossip from around the PL, right here.

  12. VIDEO: Watch Arsene Wenger snub Jose Mourinho handshake. Who is in the wrong?

    Aug 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Chelsea - Premier League Preview Getty Images

    Wenger and Mourinho’s feud continues, but should both manager’s bite the bullet and make up?

  13. Paris Saint-Germain a “step up” from Manchester United for Angel di Maria

    Aug 3, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-PSG-NICE Getty Images

    PSG’s skipper Silva is risking the wrath of United’s fans around the globe.

  14. Cristiano Ronaldo buys his agent a Greek island… as a wedding gift

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo Signs Contract Renewal For Real Madrid Getty Images

    Real Madrid superstar is a baller on and off the pitch.

  15. MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 2-0 FC Dallas (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Accam Getty Images

    David Accam helped lead Chicago Fire over FC Dallas to end the visitors five-game winning streak.

  16. WATCH: Ex-Barcelona midfielder Xavi scores a wonderful free-kick on debut for Qatari club

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:06 PM EDT

    Xavi Getty Images

    Xavi gets up for preseason friendlies, and in his first match for his new club, the 35-year-old rips a classic free kick.

  17. MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Portland Timbers (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT

    Valeri Getty Images

    Diego Valeri missed a penalty as neither side could take advantage of its few big chances.

Featured video

What can we expect from PL new boys?