So now I'm back from my holiday journeys and safely ensconced in Fullback HQ, and the time approaches when we have to deal with the business end of the United roster--namely the playmakers, wide midfielders, and forwards. The transition from Gomez to Gallardo at the heart of the beast hasn't been a smooth one, but the deluge of goals over the last month seem to indicate that the team is figuring things out. Ready, kids?
There's no doubt that the wide spots were always going to be an issue going into the season. The retirement of Josh Gros and questions about Ben Olsen's ankles left us staring down the barrel of Fred and . . . um . . . Dominic Mediate, maybe super-utility man Devon McTavish? Not exactly the sort of options that fill you with huge amounts of confidence. Fortunately, the prodigal Q returned to the fold and has been playing a valuable role. Still, I'd really like to see Tino be available to cover for the absence of Jaime or Gallardo, and that means that we still need some wide options.
Burch has done a decent job as our third-choice wide man, and Olsen may be able to pick up some minutes here or there. The problem that arises is that neither of them provide us with real speed on the wings, nor do they have the ability to threaten defenders on the dribble, and I'm not entirely convinced that Benny is back to stay. Mediate's substitute performances out wide have been pretty encouraging of late, and we've got a couple of young guns in Cordeiro and Kirk that could become viable options, on the left and right respectively, if they can just acquire that pesky little skill known as ball control. So what's it all add up to? I wouldn't mind having a true winger with pace and ball control, but that's not really something that I think is necessary (or even feasible--damnable MLS roster restrictions again, I'm afraid).
This is where we break out into, "How do you solve a problem like Marcelo?", right? There's no doubt about it--he's a quality player. The problem in my mind is that he's a subtle player--the type that really needs a lot of quality around him that places absolute trust in him. That's when he really has the potential to shine. I'm just not sure that DC United provides enough trust, speed, or movement to let him really shine at the moment. That said, the only way to get him fully integrated is minutes, so you'd be insane to leave that sort of salary (and talent) on the bench.
Fortunately, even if we lose Gallardo to injury or suspension, I think we've got pretty decent cover in the form of Fred. I think back to the Red Bulls match, and the difference in our attacking threat when we pushed Dyachenko wide and slid Fred into the middle. Similarly, I think Tino, and possibly even Jaime, could fill the spot capably, so I think we're pretty solid both depth- and talent-wise in this department.
Which brings us to the men up top. Emilio started slowly, but he's starting to make the same sort of charge up the scoring tables that landed him the Golden Boot last year. Jaime's been turning in some excellent performances as well in a more withdrawn role. The problem of course is that given the heat of summer and the number of matches and competitions we're going to be playing, those two need some rest. Assuming we can find some good minutes from the supporting wide options, I think that Tino can spell Jaime adequately. The bigger ask is going to be filling Emilio's shoes.
At the moment, that weight is going to fall on Francis Doe, who we haven't seen terribly much from so far, but who looked to be a dangerous player for the Red Bulls in the later stages of last season. I'd like to have more options at this point, but again we butt our heads against that damn salary cap. True, we have the Niell money to play with, and a direct replacement for Niell might be an option, but is it the best option money can buy? In case you haven't noticed, MLS isn't exactly littered with reliable striking options who are going to reasonably cheap and/or satisfied with coming off the bench.
There can't be much doubt that United are one of the most potent attacking teams in MLS; both the names on the roster and the stats in the books provide ample evidence of that. But is there room for improvement? Of course, there always is. In this particular case, I'd say that the biggest issues would be depth and speed, both of which are a bit questionable. With that in mind, let's get out that shopping list and make some additions.
Added to the Shopping List:
(1) Another forward option. Even if Quaranta is an adequate fill-in for Jaime (and perhaps might be the long-term answer at withdrawn forward), and Doe can start to find the net and become viable cover for Emilio, what else is there? If we don't bring in somebody new, I'd be tempted to try Kirk up top, just to give us a different type of forward--a big body with speed--that we lack at the moment.
(2) A speedy winger with good control. Not a strict necessity, but having this sort of option frees Quaranta to cover other positions and gives us the depth out wide that we're going to require as we advance into the busy late-summer, early-fall, multiple-competition schedule.
Okay, class--pencils down. So that completes our romp through the current roster situation as I see it. In the next, and final, installment of WIWFC(IJ), we'll take everything we've discussed in the first three parts and reach some final conclusions, including the master shopping list for the rapidly approaching summer transfer window. So what are your thoughts so far? Anything I've overlooked/missed/been completely oblivious to? What would you add to the shopping list?