WIWFC Part 1 - Assessing the Needs

'Tis the season and all that. I suppose it's about time that I addressed my DC United "What I Want for Christmas" list to that fat old elf clinging to whatever ice is left up there in the northern polar regions so he can deliver some quality wrapped in black and red, if not in time for the holidays, at least in time for the CONCACAF Champions' Cup. In this first installment, we'll take a look at what I felt the United roster was lacking at the close of the season as well as making a few assumptions that we'll use going forward with the analysis. Of course, all of this discussion should be tempered by the fact that we have "won" the league (in the purists' minds anyway) for two years running.

Nevertheless, let's get started with the major deficiencies, as I saw them, in the United roster as we went out of the various cup competitions with not so much of a bang as a pretty resounding whimper:
  1. Fleetness of foot and thought at the back - Otherwise known as the "bye, bye Boswell" theory. United were always vulnerable to speedy strikers and to the surprise ball that split the defense assunder. With Boswell heading to Houston, we could do with some size and strength as well, but the big issues are reading the game well and having the footspeed to make some of that anticipation count.
  2. True width in the midfield - I don't think anybody can argue the fact that our starting wide midfielders for the majority of the season, Fred and Beninho, are not (or are no longer in Ben's case) wingers. Both tended to drift inside and failed to create the sort of crossing and dribbling threat that might have created space in the middle for Gomez and the forwards to operate in. This left us a bit one-dimensional, and while our possession was generally good in the middle third, by the time we reached the final third, attacks tended to break down for lack of wide options. That's not to say that we didn't generate width on occasion, but the addition of a speedy flank player who can go at defenders and cross the ball would be huge.
  3. Speed and depth in attack - Moreno, while he can still contribute in some capacity, is growing ever more glacial, and Emilio is no burner either. The loss of Walker early in the season really killed our potential speed threat up top, and while he wasn't a reliable finisher, he was solid depth. I held out such high hopes for Kpene as the third option, but the chips never seemed to fall his way when it came to finishing chances. Addlery can enjoy the USL next year, and Dyachenko is better suited to play in midfield.
We'll address each of those issues a bit more when we discuss the specific areas of the formation. Which brings us to the final stage of this initial assessment of need--how will we line up next year?

For the purposes of this series of posts, I'm assuming that Tommy Soehn will stick with some variant of the 4-4-2. Whether that's with a flat midfield, a diamond midfield, an offset/staggered midfield, a withdrawn striker/playmaking mid and two holding mids, or a box midfield is still up in the air until we know what we've got coming into the side. If we had acquired Veron, I'm pretty certain it would have been one of the latter two, or possibly three, options.

Regardless, I'll include some wiggle room for tactical flexibility as we proceed. Right, you ask, and where exactly are we off to from here? Well, I suppose we should start with what keeps the beast upright--namely, the backbone. In Part Two of our discussion, we'll take a look at the goalkeepers, center backs, and holding/defensive midfielders, with an eye to building the team around a solid spine.

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