For the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2011 and ending with the league's newest addition, the Montreal Impact. This is part two of two previewing D.C. United's 2012 season. You can find Part 1 here.
Depth Chart: 1. Hamid, 2. Willis
Strengths: At just 21 years old, Bill Hamid has established himself as Jurgen Klinsmann's heir apparent in goal and has the luxury of a full season as Ben Olsen's unquestioned first choice to look back on. With a productive offseason under his belt, the burgeoning goalkeeping prospect should pick up right where he left off last October.
Weaknesses: This is a talented group, but experience is in short supply. Hamid and Joe Willis have barely more than a season's worth of starts between them. With Hamid standing likely be gone for extended periods on Olympic duty and with the full national team, the pressure will be on Willis, who made three starts in stand-in duty during his rookie season in 2010, to keep the level from falling off.
Wildcard: Andrew Dykstra – a onetime opening-day starter in Chicago – seems to have the inside track for the third goalkeeper slot on the roster, although nothing is official yet. If he does make the team, Dykstra should push Willis for a spot on the bench after a year in the NASL.
READ: 2012 D.C. United Preview
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Russell, 2. Korb; CB: 1. Dudar – McDonald, 2. Jakovic, 3. White; LB: 1. Woolard, 2. Korb
Strengths: After a season of turmoil in the center of defense a year ago, D.C. United have managed to gather a talented group of central defenders that goes four deep. Ethan White played almost 2,000 minutes for the club in 2011, but he figures to have a long route to the field with Brandon McDonald back in black and red, Dejan Jakovic healthy again and the arrival of Argentine Emiliano Dudar.
Weaknesses: The presence of Brazilian trialist Guilherme Alves da Costa is a pretty good indication that Olsen sees left back as a position in need of reinforcement. Woolard is a solid option, but doesn't provide much offensive thrust. At the very least, United could use depth at outside back, especially since it seems Perry Kitchen's long-term home is defensive midfield.
Wildcard: Early indications are that Dudar has impressed in camp with his ability on the ball and composure under pressure. Success in MLS comes down to more than pure talent, though. Can he adapt quickly and stay healthy over the course of a grueling regular season?
SEE: Preseason Schedule
Depth Chart: LM 1. Pontius, 2. DeLeon; AM 1. Boskovic, 2. King; DM 1. Kitchen, 2. Saragosa; RM 1. Najar, 2. Cruz
Strengths: When healthy and on form, D.C. United could have the best midfield attacking trio in the league. Andy Najar is the club's most dynamic player outside Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius is nearly healed from the injury that ended his season and Branko Boskovic is healthy and ready to pick out the passes that will spring his teammates.
Weaknesses: The talent is not in doubt, but durability could be a question mark. Pontius and Boskovic will be playing with recently repaired appendages. Olsen needs both to stay healthy in order for D.C. to live up to their potential.
Wildcard: Kitchen has made the move to defensive midfield after playing mostly right back a season ago. How he handles the switch will determine how much freedom his attack-minded teammates have to go forward. If Kitchen transitions smoothly and plays up to his potential, D.C. will have found a good balance between steel and flash.
Depth Chart: 1. De Rosario, 2. Salihi, 3. Wolff, 4. Santos
Strengths: De Rosario won't have to shoulder quite the burden he did in 2011, a prospect opposing defenses can't be too thrilled about. With the addition of Hamdi Salihi, Olsen has – at the very least – a forward with a history of scoring goals at every stop he's made. If the Albanian can distract defenses, De Rosario should have a field day finding holes to exploit.
Weaknesses: Josh Wolff and Maicon Santos are solid bench options and spot starters, but United. need Salihi to justify his DP tag and he remains an unknown quantity at this point. If he isn't as advertised or can't stay healthy, De Rosario is going to be leaned on heavily once again. He handled that extraordinarily last season, but it would be a tall task for him to replicate what was a career year.
Wildcard: Santos has largely been a disappointment during his MLS stops in Toronto and Dallas, but he is still just 27 years old and managed to score eight goals in 2011. If Olsen can get Santos on the right track and convince him to up his workrate, the Brazilian could go a long way toward kicking his reputation for underachievement.