WASHINGTON – D.C. United’s offseason roster overhaul has certainly paid dividends: The club has gone from the basement to near the top of the Eastern Conference table in just half a season.
After a disappointing 2013, D.C. blew their roster up completely. They brought in a new defensive corps, acquiring MLS veterans Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell and Sean Franklin, picking up Spanish outside back Cristian Fernandez and drafting center back Steve Birnbaum.
They reinforced an already serviceable midfield with former Montreal Impact man Davy Arnaud and later added Chris Rolfe in a trade with the Chicago Fire. And they thoroughly overhauled their attack, bringing in proven firepower in Fabian Espindola and Designated Player Eddie Johnson.
Halfway through their 2014 season, it’s clear that most of United’s moves have panned out. Espindola – still recovering from an injury suffered last month – has been sensational at forward, Boswell and Franklin have brought stability to their back line and Rolfe has brought some much-needed creativity and flair to their attack.
Other moves haven’t worked out as planned. Fernandez was spotty – the Spanish fullback looked good going forward but sometimes proved to be a defensive liability, and parted ways with United several weeks ago for personal reasons. Parke was on his way to putting together a very solid season before suffering a foot ailment, which has kept him out of action for the past month.
On Thursday, a team representative suggested that more information on Parke’s injury would be available in the coming week, though sources also confirmed to MLSsoccer.com that the steady center back's ailment may keep him out for several more months.
With the summer transfer window finally open, will United look to fill some of the back line holes created by Parke’s injury and Cristian’s departure?
Birnbaum has filled in admirably for the injured Parke, and United also have former Toronto FC and San Jose Earthquakes center back Nana Attakora at their disposal, along with Homegrown product Conor Shanosky. Though former US national team center back Oguchi Onyewu has been training with D.C. for the past two weeks, his stay in the District looks to be just that – a training stint. United are likely comfortable with their current crop of central defenders.
“[We could use help] with depth at outside back,” United head coach Ben Olsen told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “We could use help, eventually, in the midfield as well.”
Chris Korb has filled in serviceably at left back for Fernandez since his departure, but Korb is traditionally a right-sided player. Though his speed and offensive upside make him an asset on either side of the field, many observers of United have assumed that the club will purse another outside back in the upcoming weeks.
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It’s a thought that seems to be bolstered by the rumored presence of trialist and Jamaican international Kemar Lawrence in camp, a development reported in the Jamaican media.
Olsen, however, seems comfortable with the idea of Korb as a more permanent solution at that position. When asked on Wednesday whether he’d consider playing Korb at left back full-time, Olsen seemed resolute.
“Yeah [I’m comfortable with that],” he said. “I think Chris has done a fine job out there. He’s played there before – he’s got a lot of games at left back. As he plays out there he’ll get more comfortable. It’s not ideal for him, but he understands the position well.”
“We’re looking, though,” Olsen concluded. “We’ll certainly have a piece or two moving forward.”