D.C. United fans have a lot to look forward to following the forgettable 2013 campaign, the worst season in history of the storied MLS franchise. At times it was painful to to watch last year’s squad stumble their way to the finish line, but even in the midst of some truly awful soccer, there were some silver linings.
The team did manage to surprisingly win the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup by defeating Real Salt Lake 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium. In what was an otherwise dismal season, United made a nice tournament run to add to the trophy collection. Now, the question is whether third year head coach Ben Olsen can transfer the U.S. Open success to MLS regular season success with a revamped roster that is a result of many changes in the offseason.
The face of the franchise, veteran attacking midfielder-forward Dwayne De Rosario, was released and will be heading back to his native Canada to play for Toronto FC where he was at from 2009-2011. Other departed players are Lionard Pajoy, Carlos Ruiz, Marcelo Saragosa, Casey Townsend, Dejan Jakovic, John Thorrington and James Riley.
Eddie Johnson is the big offseason acquisition. The USMNT striker was traded from the Seattle Sounders for allocation money. Other fresh faces are Davy Arnaud, Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Fabian Espindola, Nana Attakora, Jeff Parke and Christian Fernandez Salas.
Also, the quest to keep United in the nation’s capital could finally be over as a tentative deal was reached for a new soccer-specific stadium in the Buzzard Point neighborhood. So with a new roster and a new stadium on the horizon, the future is looking bright for the Black and Red.
Attack: If Johnson gets in goal scoring form, the United offense will be something to be reckoned with and could cause problems for opposing teams. This is especially true if Johnson finds good chemistry with Espindola. The duo could do some serious damage to the back the net.
However, Johnson could miss substantial time with the club because of 2014 Brazil World Cup duty this summer with the USMNT. That will be a challenge for United to sustain the attack without Johnson. Other players will have to step up.
Midfield: Picking up veteran Arnaud from the Montreal Impact was a good move as he will replace some of the leadership and versatility that De Rosario brought to the team. Arnaud can provide some stability for Perry Kitchen, Nick Deleon and Chris Pontius.
Defense: The swiss cheese back-line was simply awful last year. The rebuilt back four of Franklin, Boswell, Parke and Salas should hopefully play more solidly in front of starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Season Prediction: If Johnson and Espindola find a goal-scoring rhythm, the defense tightens up and Hamid plays up to his potential as one of the best netminders in the game, then United could make its way back into the MLS postseason. The pressure will be squarely on Olsen to make this work. He is on the hot seat this year and needs good results for management to be confident that he is the man for the job in the long term.
There is no doubt Olsen wants to be leading his men onto the field in winning form at the brand new Buzzard Point stadium in a few years.
Check back Friday to continue following our series previewing all 19 MLS squads’ seasons as first kick approaches on March 8 at CenturyLink Stadium.