WASHINGTON – D.C. United lost two defenders on Expansion Draft day last week, with Jordan Graye selected by Portland and Rodney Wallace also joining the Timbers in United’s deal for Dax McCarty.
Yet the midfield now looks jam-packed as a result of that trade, providing head coach Ben Olsen and his staff with no shortage of options to consider in the months ahead.
“You can talk about a system while you’re looking for players, but until you actually get the players, that’s when you’ll fit it into a system,” general manager Dave Kasper said this week. "But [Olsen] has a lot of ideas. Ben will have a lot of options on how he wants to play, his formation, and we’ll continue to look for pieces up top and in the back.”
As Kasper hinted, United’s offseason wheeling and dealing has probably just begun, so the deck could be reshuffled again between now and First Kick 2011.
But a quick glance at the DC roster suggests that some knotty tactical questions will need to be resolved, especially in the center of the park. The Black-and-Red presently possess a whopping 12 midfielders, and while several are unlikely to make the cut for next season, there are still more core contributors than places on the pitch.
The hamstrung Chris Pontius should be healthy for opening day, and he prefers the left wing spot that Santino Quaranta occupied for most of 2010. Newcomers Carlos Varela and Junior Carreiro gravitate towards the right wing, which MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar has made his own.
[inline_node:323680]Then there’s the middle. Kasper said United have been eyeing McCarty for the past year and seem eager to utilize him in a box-to-box capacity that DC have lacked since Olsen’s retirement.
“He gives you a lot of options,” Olsen said. “But where I’ve seen him succeed is as a two-way midfielder. His energy is very good, he’s scrappy enough to be in there, he’s a good passer, he can finish. He has some points in this league, certainly on the assists side.”
A bit further back, Clyde Simms, Stephen King, Curt Morsink and Conor Shanosky form a logjam at holding midfielder, and the underrated Brandon Barklage will hope to assert himself when he recovers from his second major knee injury in two years. A spot must be found for Designated Player Branko Boskovic, though the Montenegrin playmaker’s defensive duties may be minimized in 2011.
But even that would leave Pablo Hernández, the club’s other expensive midseason acquisition, in limbo. The Argentine striker tends to drop deep and link play, which might not complement the styles of Boskovic and McCarty.
“As of right now, both players are under contract, they’re part of the team and as we look for pieces, that will all come together,” said Kasper of Boskovic and Hernández. “I know Ben feels strongly about both players. When you’re out looking for players, you find a better piece here, a better piece there – that’s when you make final decisions about personnel.”