- D.C. United
- Eastern Conference
- Home: RFK Stadium
- MLS CUP: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004
- Supporters' Shield: 1997, 1999, 2006, 2007
- U.S. Open Cup: 1996, 2008, 2013
D.C. United were Major League Soccer's first true powerhouse, league originals who preached tradition from the get-go. And though they've seen some lean years between now and then — and other clubs in MLS have since caught up — a strong showing in 2014 and a new stadium on the horizon have sparked hope amongst United fans that the Black-and-Red could be headed for that promised land once again.
United's chief rivals are the New York Red Bulls, with whom they compete for the Atlantic Cup. It's among MLS' oldest rivalries and to this day remains among the league's bitterest. Though D.C. have historically enjoyed the upper hand — winning the season series with regularity and knocking New York out of the playoffs at will — the Red Bulls turned the tables in 2014 by besting United in the playoffs for the first time in league history. Matchups with New England and Philly have been heated in recent years as well — sooner or later, we may have an "I-95 Cup" on our hands.
United rode a strong run of form through the first half of 2014, wrapping their hands around the top spot in the Eastern Conference for good in mid-August. After an abysmal 2013, their 43-point turnaround was a league record, which made it all the more painful when the team fell flat in their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against New York. One silver lining: D.C. sewed up a birth in the 2015-2016 edition of CONCACAF Champions League play via their regular season performance. Oh, and there's that stadium thing. After years of turmoil, United finally put pen to paper on a deal with the District of Columbia, paving the way for a new facility that will open sometime in 2017.
- M Thomas McNamara (Dispersal Draft)
- M Andrew Driver (trade from Houston)
- M/D Markus Halsti (free)
- F Jairo Arrieta (trade from Orlando City)
- M Michael Farfan (free)
- M Miguel Aguilar (SuperDraft)
- GK Travis Worra (free)
- GK Joe Willis (traded to Houston)
- D Samuel Inkoom (traded to Houston)
- D Nana Attakora (option declined)
- M Alex Caskey (option declined)
- D Jeff Parke (option declined)
- M Kyle Porter (option declined)
- D Conor Shanosky (option declined)
- M Lewis Neal (Expansion Draft to Orlando City)
- M Thomas McNamara (Expansion Draft to NYCFC)
- M Andrew Driver (out of contract)
Eager to build off of 2014's strong showing, United head coach Ben Olsen and general manager Dave Kasper preached continuity during the offseason and did their best to retain the crucial pieces of D.C.'s first-place squad. Back are veterans Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin and Chris Rolfe, all of whom played their own critical role in United's good fortune last year. Argentine talisman Fabian Espindola has been inked to a Designated Player deal, while Finnish midfielder Markus Halsti will look to take over Davy Arnaud's role in central midfield and provide depth on the back line, as well.
United seem to have a strong set of ingredients — one key question going into 2015 is the status of DP Eddie Johnson, who remains sidelined with an undisclosed health issue likely related to a pre-existing heart condition. Though the club bolstered their attacking corps with former Crew forward Jairo Arrieta, they'd certainly welcome EJ back into the fold as well.
"Their ability to go forward and finish plays off is their main strength, but they don't stay organized defensively and give up too many chances. This team will not do as well as last year, but they still have the potential to make the playoffs."
"They probably can't replicate last year, but who knows. Last year was one of those years where it was just like "Wow," so it's about being solid again this year. I still see them as a playoff team, but I don't think they'll have the year they had last year."
PROJECTED LINEUP: 4-4-2
Hamid; Franklin, Birnbaum, Boswell, Kemp; DeLeon, Halsti, Kitchen, Rolfe; Espindola, Pontius
Complete roster [dcunited.com]
D.C.'s defense was good in 2014. Real good. Unfortunately, that means prices went up, and you'll have to sacrifice elsewhere if you want a Steve Birnbaum or Sean Franklin. In the midfield, it's hard to know who's a starter, which spells fantasy trouble. It's no different up top, with plenty likely to grab Jairo Arrieta with EJ and Espindola out.
Armchair Analyst's Best Case Scenario
Just about everything did go right for D.C. in 2014, so we have an idea of what a near best-case scenario looks like. Yeah, it'd help if we all caught a glimpse of 2012 Eddie Johnson, but his disappointing year just opened up a spot for Silva – who was more effective in every conceivable way.
Building on that will require three things: luck with injuries; a continued upward improvement curve from pretty much every youngster on the roster; and one more game-changer in the midfield.
That version of D.C. make the leap to full-on Shield & MLS Cup contender. That's this team's ceiling. But as the CCL loss showed, the floor for this group is much, much lower than previously realized.