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After a season that left DC United with only three wins in league play, DC United fans can start to look on the bright side. Despite winning the US Open Cup, fans of DC were not satisfied with the display from their team in 2013, ending the season with a record of 3-24-7. Things could not get much worse for the nation’s capital, but DC United have no plans to repeat the misery of the past and have made plenty of deals to improve the team. With the 2014 MLS season rapidly approaching, here is a preview of what you can expect from DC United.
DC United began the offseason losing eight players through various means. Two former MLS MVP’s Dwayne DeRosario and Carlos Ruiz were released from the team, as well as Marcelo Saragosa and Lionard Pajoy. Several players including James Riley, Daniel Woolard, and John Thorrington, declined their option to return to DC United as well. After losing these players, some began to question what DC was thinking. DC United soon began to refill their roster. DC United added Eddie Johnson, Jeff Parke, Nana Attakora, Sean Franklin, Davy Arnaud, Bobby Boswell, and Fabian Espindola to their roster. DC United would later add a central defender from University of California, Steven Birnbaum with the second pick of the MLS SuperDraft. Former Real Madrid academy player and UCLA midfielder Victor Muñoz was added in the latter rounds of the draft. DC United would later add Christian Fernández Salas to the team providing a solid left back with La Liga experience. Seattle Sounders and DC would finally agree on DC’s last move before the opening game with the arrival of Alex Caskey to the capital in exchange for a third round draft pick in 2016.
With the arrival of Eddie Johnson, many questions arose to how the team chemistry would be affected. EJ’s notorious past of dramatic moments is a chance that DC United is ready to take and rightly so. If Eddie Johnson can settle down in the nation’s capital and focus on his job, DC will have made one of the best moves of the offseason. However, only time will tell if the Eddie Johnson experiment will turn out with him leading the team offensively. If not, DC could end up in a similar position to last season. Luckily, DC United have signed Conor Doyle on a permanent deal from Derby County and signed Fabian Espindola for backup at the forward position and will have a good rotation set up.
DC United’s youth will still have plenty of opportunity to shine despite the heavy veteran presence that the 2014 lineup holds. With the emergence of Perry Kitchen in the past few years, some forget he is only just turned 22 years old and still has his whole career in front of him. While Perry Kitchen continues to master his midfield art, several talented teammates will look to make an impact this season. Collin Martin and Michael Seaton will be striving to prove their worth this season. Both homegrown players are still under the age of 20, but they should be able to hold key roles in the squad this season. DC United’s new draft picks Steve Birnbaum and Victor Muñoz will hope to make strides to break into the first team this season as well.
DC United’s preseason started with a few bumps after losses in their first two preseason games against Toronto and the Chicago Fire. DC was held scoreless in both matches. However, the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, provided some moments of brilliance, which saw DC United with their first piece of silverware in 2014. DC United won the trophy after a win against the Houston Dynamo and two draws with the Charleston Battery and Seattle Sounders.
After the squad overhaul, expectations will be high. While there is almost no chance of a season similar to 2013, DC United will be in a dogfight to get back into the playoffs in a tight, evenly matched eastern conference. DC has built on all of their weaknesses, will provide a good mix of veteran and youth players, and will have a strong squad that can be rotated without a loss in performance. DC United will return to winning ways in 2014 and can only get better and stronger. See you all March 8th when DC United returns to their winning ways against the Columbus Crew. Finally, here is my stab at a starting XI, and a few predictions for the 2014 season.
1. DC United return to the playoffs
Despite the great group of players that DC United has brought in during the offseason, DC will narrowly sneak into the MLS playoffs after returning from a three-win season last year. DC United will be in a race for the last two playoff spots with Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire.
2. EJ will keep his attitude under control this season
Pretty self-explanatory, Eddie Johnson will keep his antics under control at D.C.
3. DC United will get three points opening weekend
DC United will host the Columbus Crew on March 8th. DC United will be eager to display their newly acquired talent and will get three points from the match in an impressive fashion.
4. DC United will get off to a slow start
Despite the success, I think they will have in their first match, I expect a slow start. It will take time for this team to mesh and play at their full ability. Many people will doubt this team after the beginning of the season, but with time this team will begin to prosper.
5. Jared Jeffrey will earn a starting spot during the season
Jeffrey impressed in his appearances last season including a memorable long range curling goal against Toronto FC. He will be in stiff competition for a starting spot, but has all the talent needed. Jeffrey will be pushing for a spot in the midfield and can easily take one.
6. DC’s MVP will be Luis Silva
With the wealth of talent around him, Silva will thrive. Luis Silva played good for D.C. United in 2013 after his transfer for a struggling team. Now, he has all the weapons in his inventory and a team that will be able to work perfectly around him.
Predicted starting XI:
Pontius Kitchen Arnaud DeLeon
Christian Parke Boswell Franklin
or if DC United moves from their preferred formation last season:
Pontius Silva Arnaud
Christian Parke Boswell Franklin
(image courtesy of mlssoccer.com)