The backbone of the squad has been the one area that's been the subject of some fairly radical surgery so far this off-season, with GK Troy Perkins, D BobbyBoswell.com/blog, and MF Brian "Captain Argyle" Carroll, all heading for pastures of a less black-and-red variety. Arriving on the 1:30 from Houston is GK Zach Wells, while a handful of fans still remain on the platform, looking off hopefully in the direction of Argentina, waiting for a glimpse of the sun glinting off Veron's bald pate--but they wait in vain.
- Goalkeepers - Perkins was a solid keeper last year, but it had to hurt him not to have much in the way of competition after Nolly looked miserable in the few outings he did manage. Acquiring Wells is something of a horizontal move, as I don't see him as that much better or worse than Perkins at the moment. He did show well for Houston when called upon to replace Pat Onstad, so that should give us hope of having at least one solid keeper. It's got to be a pretty high priority, however, to get ahold of some serious competition for the #1 shirt, and I don't think that's going to come from the draft, nor will it come from Nolly, barring him finding the same Jesus that's been lighting a fire under Kaka. Current Status: B- [We've got a probable starter, and not a whole lot else.]
- Central Defenders - The early season switch from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 was always going to leave us a bit shorthanded at the back, particularly with depth in defense being a mantra of the pre- and early season United naysayers (myself included) for 2007. We got slower and older, but probably a little wiser by dealing Erpen for Vanney, and McTavish stepped up to fill the breech left void by the distracted, and often downright bad, Boswell. At the moment, assuming Vanney negotiates a lower contract with the club, we're looking at a center-back pairing of Vanney and McTavish. Passable, but it doesn't exactly fill one with awe, does it? Current Status: B- [Vanney-McTavish is a reasonable quality MLS center back pairing, but where, oh where, is the depth? Paging orange traffic cones . . .]
- Defensive/Holding Midfielders - Assuming that the death of the Veron death means we're looking at a formation similar to last year with one deep-lying midfielder, we've got our starter in the ever-improving Simms, but not too much in the way of depth (I sense a theme brewing here). Olsen or Namoff could play this role in a pinch, but neither are ideal. Arguez might also be an option going into his second year, but Goff says he's trotting about Deutschland, and we all know what happens to United midfielders who trial in Europe (see: Carroll, Brian and The Passing of Form). Nevertheless, we've got reasonable cover, and depth in this area is probably addressable via trade or the draft. Current Status: A- [Simms is growing into a player of real quality--if he can get that shot from distance honed to a bit more lethality, it just adds to the damage we can do in attack. We don't exactly have great cover, but it's decent considering the limitations of roster numbers and the salary cap.]
Competition and depth are the name of the game, two quantities that are hard to come by in this league, given the restrictions mentioned earlier, but the Dynamo did a fairly good job of it last year, and look where it got them. Look, damn it! Look at it till it burns your retinas and then go back for more! No pain, no gain! Feel the burn! Hurts so good!
Ugh--guess I'm still not completely over that whole, "Hey look, some orange-clad clods are lifting a trophy in our house. Our house! Khaaaaaaaan!"
Yikes. Next up, we'll try to set aside some of this late-season baggage and move on to the "wide areas of the pitch" in Part 3 of our What I Want For Christmas series--The Appendages.