It’s that time of year again. Time to consult the D.C. United roster list, see who’s been naughty and nice (and who is, frankly, useless), and compile my own off-season shopping list. Ready to begin?
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The process of re-shaping the roster has already begun. Scouting missions have been dispatched, Robbie Russell has been acquired to bolster the back line, and severe roster pruning has already seen United definitely part ways with at least three long-serving veterans. So let’s take a look, in this first part of “What I Want For Christmas,” at the current state of the roster, identifying weaknesses and potential dead wood.
Some caveats and assumptions before I get started:
For the purposes of assessing the current roster, I’m going to assume that the players who did not have their options picked up are potential trialists at best and certainly aren’t part of Olsen’s core plans going forward, even if their names are still on the roster page at United’s website. For that reason, I may mention them as potential depth, but likely will ignore them altogether.
Charlie Davies is gone. He’s not coming back.
Outside of the players we’ve currently lost to either retirement or the Re-Entry draft, we’re not going to lose anybody else. Trades or bids from abroad may very well happen, but I’m going to assume that nobody is being actively shopped and that those retained thus far are part of the plans for 2012.
We begin at the back. Hamid staked inarguable claim to the #1 spot this past season, and, though he has his flaws, his current quality is high and potential even higher. Might that see him attract outside interest? Absolutely, but assuming he’s still around, he’s the starter.
In limited duty last year, Willis did enough to surpass the veteran (and projected competition for the starting spot) Cronin, who hasn’t had his option picked up for 2012. Willis is still largely unproven, but should be a decent backup option, an option United will have to exercise with Hamid facing potential Olympic and/or qualifying duty.
The post-season pruning has left the defensive ranks looking rather sparse. Add in the likely move of Kitchen, a defensive starter for most of 2011, to midfield, and those ranks are thinner still. The addition of Robbie Russell from RSL locks down the right back spot and provides potential central depth. Korb provides cover on both flanks while Woolard is the putative starter at left back with Burch gone to Seattle. McDonald and Jakovic are the likely starters in central defense, with Ethan White (and possibly Shanosky?) as depth.
Given my documented doubts about Woolard and uncertainty about the central pairing of McDonald and Jakovic, at the very least we’re short a couple of bodies for depth here. Perhaps a fully-healthy Jakovic makes the central partnership more reliable, but given his injury history (not to mention potential duty with Canada), that’s not exactly something you can count on is it? Russell will likely be a rock on the right, but I’d be shocked if we weren’t actively scouting left and center backs.
The potential starting four (or five) look strong. Najar and Pontius are among the league’s best flank players. Kitchen looked impressive in closing the season with cameos at d-mid. De Rosario is a solid central option (though I prefer him further forward) and Boskovic looked like he was beginning to click before his injury last year.
The problem, as should be obvious given that the options on a third of the roster weren’t picked up, is depth, particularly with Kitchen, Najar, and De Rosario all potentially being called up for national team duty. At the moment, said depth consists of the decent King in the middle, the reasonable da Luz on the left flank, and possibly the unproven Shanosky (who has not played a single professional minute, lest we forget) at d-mid. Word is that Morsink is looking at a restructured deal as well, though I’d entertain his presence as a trialist at best if we’re looking to increase the quality roster-wide (read as: not a fan).
Wolff and Brettschneider. That’s it. Maybe you could toss in the tweeners like Pontius and De Rosario, who range from “likely” to “almost certain” to start elsewhere. Either way, that’s thin to the point of vanishing. Considering that I don’t think consistently starting Wolff or Brettschneider is step 1 in anybody’s plan for world domination (though I’m fine with them off the bench), that leaves United needing severe help in the form of starting-quality forwards.
While I’d argue that United should probably start De Rosario either up top or in a free role working off a solitary striker, thus filling one of those starting spots, questions about Boskovic’s health, consistency, and effectiveness could force De Rosario’s use as a midfield creative dynamo. That leaves you with potentially two holes to fill up top.
Having run the rule over the current roster and identified where it is lacking, Part II of WIWFC will compile those weaknesses and assign priorities for addressing them.