Thursday, March 17, 2011

D.C. United 2011 MLS Season Preview

AP Photo/J. Pat Carter

In 2010 the New York Red Bulls went from worst record in MLS to first place in the Eastern Conference. Their Atlantic Cup rival D.C. United is poised to make a similar ascent up the standings.

After finishing last season with the worst record in MLS, and failing to qualify for the playoffs for a third consecutive year, D.C. made a lot of changes to its roster, picking up some very recognizable names.

Joseph Ngwenya, Josh Wolff, Pat Onstad, Dax McCarty and Charlie Davies will all represent the Black and Red on the pitch this season.

Ngwenya, Wolff and Davies were all brought in to help an impotent offense that was the only team in MLS last season to not score 30 goals (21). All the attention will be on Davies however.

It seems like ages ago Davies was a promising USMNT forward that wowed fans with his blistering speed, earned their respect with his tireless hustle and got their attention with his “Stanky Leg” goal celebration. Then a car accident not only almost took his soccer career, but his life as well.

Davies has persevered, though, and has done his rehab. His parent club, FC Sochaux, thought he was unfit for first team action with them so he needed a fresh start. In a surprising twist he wound up exactly where it all fell apart for him.

Fans around the world, especially American fans, will watch Davies closely; Is he still as fast? Can he score? What’s going to happen if someone comes in with a hard challenge? Can he be the great player we thought he would be before the accident?
It’s a lot to live up to, but leading up to things Davies seems to realize what he’s gotten himself into, relishes it and just wants to focus on getting first-team fit again.

He’ll have plenty of support behind him in the midfield. Last year’s Rookie of the Year Andy Najar will be joined by Designated Player Branko Boskovic, Santino Quaranta and Dax McCarty. Najar was the team’s leader in goals scored last season and the team’s lack of talent really thrust him into a starring role. But it won’t be all up to him this year.

The majority of the team is young, so McCarty will provide the leadership this squad lacked last year. He’s only 23-years-old, but he’s been in the league since 2006 and last year with FC Dallas he made it to the MLS Cup final. He’s getting increased looks from the USMNT and was the team’s captain in its January friendly against Chile.

The big names have come on offense but the defense is a bit thin. It was supposed to be homegrown product Bill Hamid’s time to shine in net, but he suffered a shoulder injury early in preseason. Backup Steve Cronin was also injured, so it’s up to 43-year-old Pat Onstad—who retired and signed with D.C. to be an assistant coach, only to unretire to fill out the goalie position—to lead a relatively unfamiliar unit. Outside of rookie Perry Kitchen, the team’s first round pick, the rest of the defense is a bunch of unknowns.

A big problem for United is that while the additions are of high-profile names, do they still bring talent or are they working on name alone? Teams get rid of players for all different reasons, but make no mistake about it Ngwenya, Wolff and Onstad were all let go by their respective teams. Wolff only scored two goals last season, Ngwenya netted only one goal and Onstad retired. And can Davies stay healthy?

The defense looks to be the weakness but the other positions are full of potential and promise. Things may start out a little rocky, but this team does have the talent to at least sneak into the playoffs.

If anything, this team gives the faithful fans something to be optimistic about despite the performances over the past few years and the possibility that the team may be moved.

Charlie Davies talks about the car accident and D.C. United. Video from Fox Sports.
<a href="" target="_new" title="Exclusive Interview: Charlie Davies">Video: Exclusive Interview: Charlie Davies</a>

No comments:

Post a Comment