- Fullbacks - Ahem! United's fullback situation was pretty bleak heading into the summer of 2007 on the back of the Great Formation Shift, which added an extra defensive slot in the lineup that we hadn't planned on needing to fill. Miraculously, United emerged on the other side of that nasty and congested season with not just one (Namoff), but two quality wide defenders, as young wanderer Marc Burch finally found his calling not as a forward or left wing, but as a left back. So as we look forward to 2008, the starting fullback positions are fairly settled. Namoff is a proven quantity in MLS, and Burch was well on his way towards becoming so as 2007 drew to a close. Here's hoping that he can avoid picking up a blog, as they seem to have a disturbing garlic-to-vampires effect on our young defenders (that goes for you too, McTavish!) Depth may be a minor concern, as it seems to come, thus far, from the already-thin center back corps of McTavish and Vanney, though Olsen could probably be pressed into service as a right back as well. Although we don't desperately need a third player of "starter quality" at fullback (as we do in the center of defense), it wouldn't hurt to have someone to push the starters for playing time. Current Status: A- [We've got one proven starter and a second that shows a lot of potential, but the depth (as always) is a bit of an issue.]
- Wide Midfielders - I hesitate to say "wingers", as we don't really possess any. Last year's starters, Fred and Ben Olsen (seriously, can be change Benny to Barney?), are good midfielders, but neither is the type to get wide, get the ball to feet, run at defenders, and look to cross. That's a dimension sorely missing in the United attack that needs to be addressed in the off-season. This isn't going to be remedied via the draft, so we're looking at a trade or a foreign acquisition. Compounding the lack of width is the likelihood that Fred gets pushed into the Gomez role should the latter cash in on an Asian payday. With Gros likely to be retiring, that leaves us with Olsen, Mediate, and DeRoux. Mediate is adequate depth, but DeRoux will probably have to prove he deserves his roster spot. So we're left needing at least one, and probably two wide players, one of which should be of "starting eleven" quality. The only other option is to generate width through fullbacks and mobile forwards, going with a box or rhombus (narrow diamond) midfield, but again that leaves us needing to pull some mobility-enabled forwards out of our black-and-red magic hat--and no, Jaime on a Rascal doesn't count (though I will post any Photoshop jobs sent my way--email link in the sidebar). Current Status: C+ [Unless Gomez is staying, in which case we're up to a solid B as Fred and Olsen are not a bad pair to have, despite not being true wingers. Otherwise, we're in a deep patch of doodoo and praying for the front office to dig up another gem in South America to cover Fred's probable shift to the middle.]
Next up on our long and winding road through the wish list, comes the area that could see the most radical changes from 2007--the teeth and claws. What I Want For Christmas, Part 4 will address the questionable status of our once-formidable attacking options, be they forwards or attacking midfielders, going into 2008.