It was a case of close but no cigar for D.C. United in 2011. Up until the last six weeks of the season, a playoff spot looked like a very strong possibility in the first full year of head coach Ben Olsen’s coaching career. But a six-game winless streak down the stretch to wrap up the season doomed the team’s postseason chances.
But there was plenty of good news for D.C. fans. Young and talented players like Perry Kitchen, Bill Hamid, Ethan White and Andy Najar all stepped up and played significant minutes in helping United bounce back from their woeful 2010 and provide plenty more optimism for 2012.
Best Moment of the Year
Dwayne De Rosario’s scintillating first-half performance against Real Salt Lake on Sept. 24 saw the Canadian international score a hat trick in the game’s first 35 minutes, while also setting the table for the game’s opening goal in a comprehensive 4-1 win.
Worst Moment of the Year
On the road in Vancouver on Oct. 12 against one of the worst team’s in the league, D.C. conceded a goal less than a minute into the start of each half. The deficit proved to be too much to overcome, and they lost the game 2-1, further hindering their playoff hopes.
After his midseason acquisition, De Rosario left numerous quality tallies in his wake in his half-season with D.C. The pick of the lot was his second goal against the San Jose Earthquakes back in July. DeRo started the move at the top of the 18-yard box with a no-look pass to Chris Pontius. He kept his run on goal and superbly re-directed a low return pass into the upper corner.
Bill Hamid’s stop on Fredy Montero against the Seattle Sounders on May 4 was one of the 20-year-old’s best moments of the season. With D.C. up 2-1, the young US international-to-be had to go into full stretch to get a hand to Montero’s sizzling blast from the top of the 18-yard box. Not only was it a top-drawer save, but United held on for the win to boot.
What’s good for the league trophy is clearly good enough for the club. After his acquisition on June 27, De Rosario scored 13 goals and had seven assists in a D.C. uniform, good enough to collect the first league MVP of his career.
Little arguing this one, either. Brandon McDonald’s signing brought some life to the defense, but De Rosario’s midseason pickup turned out to be the right move.
1. Sign De Rosario to an extension. Despite his advancing age – DeRo turned 33 this year – the attacking midfielder showed that he still has what it takes to succeed in this league. D.C. have already stated their interest to keep him around for longer, as De Rosario is heading into the final year of his contract, a club-held option.
2. Bolster the defense. While the offense improved tremendously in 2011, United’s defense proved to be their Achilles heel time and time again. A lot of that can be chalked up to inexperience and injury, but it’s a glaring issue that needs to be addressed this offseason, especially both outside back positions and in the middle. Adding Robbie Russell at the end of November was a good start, but reinforcements are still needed.
3. Add to the attack. Charlie Davies’ loan option was declined and it’s all but certain he isn’t coming back. With Joe Ngwenya likely not returning, that would leave two forwards at the club (Josh Wolff and Blake Brettschneider), a position that must be addressed in order for D.C. to make the jump to the next level in 2012.