SBI MLS Team Previews: D.C. United

D.C. United - JPEG
 

By AVI CREDITOR

With a bevy of new players and a new coaching regime, D.C. United will aim to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Former DCU player and assistant, Curt Onalfo, took over for former coach Tom Soehn in the offseason and inherited a team with quite a few holes after the departure of a number of roster stalwarts.

All is not bleak in the nation's capital, though. A successful preseason culminated with a Carolina Challenge Cup title, spearheaded by a rejuvenated Jaime Moreno. A fresh start may be just what this franchise needs to have a shot at competing for its fifth MLS Cup.

Here is a look at the 2010 D.C. United:

2010 D.C. UNITED

Players to Watch- Santino Quaranta, Chris Pontius, Bryan Namoff, Jaime Moreno

Key Arrivals- Troy Perkins, Christian Castillo, Danny Allsopp, Adam Cristman, Kurt Morsink

Key Departures- Christian Gomez, Luciano Emilio, Fred, Ben Olsen, Danny Szetela

Projected Lineup (New starters in bold):

————————Jaime Moreno———–Chris Pontius———————

————————————–Santino Quaranta—————————

Christian Castillo———————————————Brandon Barklage

—————————————-Clyde Simms————————————

–Rodney Wallace—Dejan Jakovic—-Julius James—Devon McTavish

—————————————–Troy Perkins———————————–

Biggest Question - Can the patchwork defense hold things together?

With Marc Burch out for at least three more months and Bryan Namoff not yet game-fit as he recovers from post-concussion complications, Onalfo will have to mix and match to form a wall of defense in front of Perkins. Trialist and Bolivian centerback Juan Manuel Pena figures to get a contract and will fight for a starting spot, but the onus will be on a group with limited experience together in the back to stay organized and keep the pressure off the keeper.

X-Factor- Santino Quaranta

Quaranta will be expected to be the team's playmaker this year, moving from outside midfield to a central role. He has stated his intentions at taking the proverbial "next step" in his career and is in position to do so. A great season from Quaranta is a must for D.C. to reach the postseason.

Outlook - Morale is high in the D.C. United camp, but the roster is still a bit thin, with more unknowns than a team would hope for entering a season.

Best case scenario: Allsopp and Castillo emerge as great signings, Quaranta embraces his new role, Namoff recovers and returns to form, Pontius blossoms in his second year and Perkins comes up big in goal.

Worst case scenario: The defense struggles at the onset, and the team gets off to a slow start, killing all positive preseason momentum. In the parity-rich MLS, anything is possible, but barring a major summer signing D.C. may be on the outside of the playoff picture come October.

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35 Responses to SBI MLS Team Previews: D.C. United

  1. Hutskizzle says:

    Szeleta is a key departure? he played that big of a difference in the few months they had him?

  2. Willardo DuPont says:

    I think DCU is in a good position heading into the year. The club is taking a few gambles on some existing players and giving them a chance. If one or two fail, there is plenty of salary cap room left to sign a significant player or two for the playoff stretch.

    A couple of quibbles with your starting lineup though. The midfield is really a flat four. The club has emphasized this so I don’t expect to see Quaranta playing as advanced, nor Simms as deep. The two will be in very similar roles with Quaranta the more instinctive creator and Simms the more instinctive stopper. The club will measure their success as true box-to-box midfielders.

    The last minor detail is that Jakovic will play the right side center back position. Pena will start at the left side. Pena and Perkins will be expected to keep the defense firm while the offense searches for its identity. There aren’t expected to be any failures in the back, but I think the club is expecting one or two in the midfield and strikeforce.

  3. Willardo DuPont says:

    Najar could be a surprise sleeper at right midfield after a month or two as well.

  4. Charles says:

    It is easy to think that a team that hasn’t made the playoffs for a few year, needs to improve a lot.

    Sure 9th or 10th in a 15 team league isn’t what you want, but they were only a tiebreaker ( with Salt Lake ironically enough ) away from the playoffs and only 9 points behind the best regular season.

    You can’t beat MLS for every minute of every game matters.

  5. scott47a says:

    Perkins is a major upgrade for these guys, but it’s hardly a scary lineup. As an outsider I cannot figure out why they didn’t try to get a better midfielder to put alongside Simms and keep Quaranta out right where he did so well last year.

    Plus Onalfo is a joke of a coach. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he played Morsink regularly.

  6. yankiboy says:

    That is a lot of hope to hang on such a young kid. Let’s give him some time.

  7. The AMT says:

    They got burnt in the past with Gallardo (and even with Mayor Fenty and with PG County on the stadium) so they weren’t going to jump into bed with whatever sexy creative player they could find. Szetela, from everything I’ve heard, was never going to pan out based on his personal/discipline/whatever issues, so he was let go. They have the cap room to make a purchase if they need to, and it looks like the FO has learned the patience to wait and see if there’s a need before blowing up the team even more than they need to.

  8. yankiboy says:

    I hope that I am wrong but I am not inspired with too much confidence when I look at that the inclusion of Barklage and James or even Castillo (maybe he will adapt, maybe he won’t).

    Hopefully my local MLS side will actually make the playoffs this year.

    Onalfo will need to win a lot of games before I start to beleive that he was the right choice for the position.

    Hopefully the Socceroo, Allsopp will have some flaches of brilliance and Cristman has always seemed like more of a conmplemetary piece to me that a go-to-guy…

  9. Lucy says:

    Morsink is a key arrival? He’s only there because Onalfo has a soft spot (or should I say HARD spot) for him. Kid is terrible.

  10. Rory says:

    Allsopp has an impressive goal scoring record in various leagues. He could be huge.

  11. bryan says:

    i still think getting rid of Szetela was a mistake. but i’m just hoping they are freeing up cap space for a DP. anyway, can’t wait for the season to start!

    Vamos United!

  12. Josh D says:

    I’d also rather see Pontius dropped back, not as a striker but more of an outside winger like Tino – able to attack farther up.

    I’d also like to point out that Moreno will not be starting enough games for us to include him as a starter. Sadly I’d throw Allsopp there…

    And McTavish isn’t a new player, shouldn’t be bold.

    I expect two more signings (Pena) before the end of the transfer period and a bunch more during the summer. We have far too much money laying about.

    I also think Wallace will have another breakthrough season that may get him into a national team camp this year…

  13. Test says:

    Where did gomez go? Anybody know?

  14. BadWolf says:

    IMO DCU will “just” make the playoffs this year.
    I really have doubts about the Forwards and attacking MF. Don’t like Barklage or Morsink at all. It would be good to see Andy Najar get some time, he is only 17, but based on his pre-season maybe he can add a spark to the attack.

    Rory. Allsopp has shown absolutely ZERO in pre-season. I hope that you are right and he becomes the hitman for DC….cuz we surely can’t rely on Jaime as the only scorer and expect to progress.

    And finally Ives – you have Pontius in your “needs to blossom” list :)) I know he has played this pre-season cuz the player lists say he has – but – I have yet to see him actually touch the ball, hopefully he is not a one-season wonder.

  15. BadWolf says:

    Ives: Thank you for all the team previews – this is great stuff – looking forward to a great season, and this helps everyone get pumped.

    VAMOS UNITED

  16. Willardo DuPont says:

    Calling him a surprise sleeper isn’t really counting on him is it? I think it just identified him as a talented prospect.

  17. alf says:

    This DC team seems incredibly low on talent. They will depend on Jaime Moreno to find yet another fountain of youth, a perennial head case and mediocrity in Quaranta to run their offence, a next to anonymous midfield and defence, with Troy Perkins desperately trying to keep the floodgates from opening up in the back. Based on talent this is a bottom feeder team this year.

  18. Citronomics says:

    We’ll see when the season begins but think the main question mark is the attacking quality of this team. Yes -Moreno, Pontius and Tino can all score but not sure how effective they will be across the season without a prototypical creative mid like Gomez or Marco E. Jaime could do this but doesn’t have the legs for it with 30+ games. So Ives’ point about Tino embracing his new role is key if he won’t be on the wing. Defense isn’t IMO as patchwork as Ives suggests. While I’d rather have Namoff than McTavish, both McTavish and James (who I think did ok) saw time last year and are decent enough MLS players. Plus Pena may sign.

    All that speculation aside… ready for the season to start. Go DCU!

  19. fischy says:

    “A couple of quibbles with your starting lineup though. The midfield is really a flat four. The club has emphasized this so I don’t expect to see Quaranta playing as advanced, nor Simms as deep. ”

    I think this is correct. Certainly, I don’t expect Quaranta to play higher than the wings. He may play a little higher than Simms, but he won’t be a CAM/reserved forward.

    You’re undoubtedly right about Pena’s role.

  20. fischy says:

    Well — a lot of us DC United fans are disappointed about the midfield lineup. I don’t think they’re done, though. The team has oodles of cap room left over — possibly enough for two DPs. I expect they’ll be bus shopping during the summer transfer window.

  21. fischy says:

    I bet his agent knows….

  22. fischy says:

    How many games have you watched? As far as I know, only 3 were even available to see on the internet — the Carolina Cup matches. He didn’t play in the first 2, after tweaking his hamstring in Mexico, where he scored the lone goal. He was pretty active in the last game against the Battery. I’m guessing you didn’t watch.

  23. fischy says:

    You don’t know this team. The only comment that bears an relation to reality is the one about Moreno. Quaranta is fitter than he’s ever been, and he’s not “mediocre” by MLS standards. The team may have the best centerback tandem in the league. If Namoff comes back to health, the will have the best right back in the league, as well. They have a very skilled left wing who scored twice against the USA in WC qualifying, and they have one of the best DMs in the league. They may have some trouble scoring, if Allsopp isn’t what they hope he is, but they will have a very solid defense.

  24. fischy says:

    It’s not a piece written by Ives. Otherwise, I agree with what you’ve written, with one caveat. I think it’s fairly certain Pena will sign…and start.

  25. fischy says:

    He’s not a key arrival. He will give the team a little more depth than they had before.

  26. JoeW says:

    First, of course this DCU team looks low in talent. It’s a work in progress. They were at least half a million under the cap BEFORE the new CBA (and maybe as much as 800k if some figures are right).

    Second, Alsopp doesn’t impress me as a scorer. To me, he looks like the proverbial English target player–hustles, gets his head on the ball, plays defense, plays with his back to goal, sets up other players. But he appears to be very limited and definitely not a guy I’d count on for more than 5-6 goals. Maybe he’ll make me eat my words but I think not.

    Third, for those who are just writing off DCU, here’s an interesting stat: this preseason they gave up only 2 goals: an OG by McTavish on a deflection and PK to RSL. Onalfo stated (and a huge issue with the team the past 2 years for sure) was that he wanted to eliminate “soft goals” and make this team much harder to score against. Clearly he’s done that.

    Beyond the defensive improvement though, I think it’s very difficult to project what kind of team DCU will be.

  27. Beckster says:

    DC has potential (good coaching staff, great keeper and solid core) and if we get Namoff back, sign Pena and pick up top talent this summer with all of that cash lying around, we can be a contender. That of course as long as we aren’t hit hard by injuries. I am very excited to see Tino in the play maker role – he has the talent and would love to see him step it up to another level.

    Go DCU!!!

  28. DC Josh says:

    Seriously? Put more thought into your comments.

    Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace are both coming off great rookie seasons. Quaranta has been sober and clean for well over a year, give the kid a break. Clyde Simms is an above average MLS holding midfielder. Jakovic is an above average MLS center back. And Perkins is one of the best MLS goalkeepers.

  29. alf says:

    DC J and fischy, I applaud your enthusiasm and hope you are right for DC’s sake. However, this is a team that has either stayed put or gotten worse at every position except for goal, lost a leader in Olsen. Name the last time outside of stand outs like Guevara and Cienfuegos that a central american signing made much of an impact right away in this league?

  30. Matt Mathai says:

    Did you really just ask “Other than the standouts, can you name the standouts?”

  31. Sgc says:

    A couple comments:

    1) Allsopp was signed to start, and in all likelihood he will. I suspect that’s for Moreno, but if Jaime is partying like it’s 1999, then great, slide Pontius over to right mid. Which would be good because. . .

    2) Barklage is a reasonably decent backup, but he’s not a starter. I think even if Jaime can give us 1800 minutes or so (and I don’t dare hope for more than that), this team is currently down one midfielder. As a season ticket holder, I’m hoping something is added to that mix at some point during the season.

    3) Pena appears to be ready to sign, and to be a good acquisition. Even at 37, I don’t think this team is down a defender anymore, except maybe a wide one to cover for Namoff’s injury (maybe Woolard gets signed here).

    I’m actually reasonably hopeful about Allsopp, don’t think Quaranta will do too badly, and like what I’ve seen of Castillo and Pena. But if DC doesn’t add at least one midfield talent (and I’m in the group that suspects they have the cap room to do it), this is the kind of team that would look to grind out 1-0 victories and road draws. They could squeak into the 8th seed if Onalfo happens to get them good at that trick (and it didn’t seem like his KC teams were, in particular), but it’d be ugly. The case for optimism is largely the unknown factor.

  32. plug 713 says:

    DC United won the Carolina Cup because Jaime Moreno scored two goals in the championship game. They cannot enter the season so dependant on a player who is no longer capable of going 90 minutes every game all season long. As others point out in these postings, several of the new faces come with baggage. I cannot view with any optimism a team that is seriously hoping a newly-signed 37 year-old player is the answer to their many defensive problems. The simple truth about DC United is that Bruce Arena built a brilliant team in the early years of the league and his many successors have been unable to reproduce his success.

  33. alf says:

    Yes, I did. On the balance, the central american players must bring enough quality to the field to make up for the fact that they are likely to be physically abused in this very physical league. As it turns out, only the very rare talents seem able to overcome that balance and become solid positives for their teams. How rare? El Salvador disappeared from the CONCACAF scene after Cienfuegos retired – he was their all time great. To put it another way, Arturo Alvarez is a stand out for El Sal now – want to build your midfield around him in MLS?

  34. Sgc says:

    Actually, the good thing about Pena is sort of like Moreno, which is that we finally have a bit of cover–we don’t ‘need’ them to ‘solve all our problems’, just to pitch in.

    Assuming he can’t give you 2000 minutes, Jakovic and James are not a “pencil them in to lose” tandem, though they’re not gonna blow anyone away. Similarly, Allsopp and Pontius are still a pretty solid forward pairing, and Christman is better than most teams’ fourth option.

    The real problem becomes a whole lot of ‘pretty solid’ and not much special. Which looks enough like Onalfo’s KC teams to set off some alarm bells, since he doesn’t seem to be the kind of coach to wring the extra mile out of that sort of team (there are some coaches who can).

  35. Jay says:

    Morsink is a huge liability. He turns the ball over more times in a game than any player I have ever seen. He is a huge asset to opposing teams. Onalfo has a crush on him for some reason.