The Black-and-Red open their regular season campaign tonight against the Los Angeles Galaxy, it’ll be interesting to see who’ll be in the starting 11. Like the Galaxy, D.C. United has new pieces that haven’t yet all fit into place. Time is of importance for both clubs, specifically as to how long it takes for their lineups and teams to round into form.
Preseason ended with a draw to Queretaro, but D.C. United would lose the aggregate and be knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League. During preseason play, there were only a few things that were certain. One that Andrew Dykstra is indeed the keeper while Bill Hamid rehabs from surgery, the second being that the back line is still in tact from last season. The third, there is certainly more talent available as it pertains to the attack, but it’s unknown how all of those pieces will fit or what the best combination of said pieces are.
With the backline in place, this season will heavily depend on the midfield. Finding the best fit is imperative, there are certainly players on the roster that can inject much needed life into a struggling attack last season. Luciana Acosta needs to be on the field, the 21-year old has already shown how much of a headache he can be for opposing defenses. His technical skill and outstanding pace are things the Black-and-Red have sorely lacked. Lamar Neagle is also another interesting piece, he can play both out wide or up top as a forward. In either spot, he can contribute and give the team something they haven’t quite had. The same could be said for the speedy Patrick Nyarko, he really showed what he could do in the second half of their last match against Queretaro. As he got more comfortable on the ball, he started to beat defenders in 1v1 situations using his first step and pace, even drawing a penalty kick.
There’s still more pieces to the midfield with Chris Rolfe who scored a career-high 10 goals last season while alternating from midfield and forward. Nick DeLeon has apparently been moved inside, after playing out on the flanks last season. Marcelo Sarvas and Markus Halsti may be the closest pieces to either of the departed members of central midfield in Davy Arnaud who has retired and Perry Kitchen who’s moved on to play overseas. Second year midfielder Miguel Aguilar can’t be forgotten either, he showed flashes of what he brings to the table last season. He’s another guy who can create havoc with his ability to win 1v1 and they also added Rob Vincent. Last but not least the two youngsters from this year’s SuperDraft, Julian Buescher and Paul Clowes. While Buescher may be the closest of the two to carving out a role this season, both are options in midfield.
The two clear cut options up top at forward are the ever dangerous Fabian Espindola and traditional forward in Alvaro Saborio. Fabi looks to be in good form heading into the opener tonight, he was very solid in preseason. Linking up with his teammates and really taking on the role of facilitator in the attack at times while also looking for his own shot. Sabo played sparingly, but again he’s still an option up front and don’t forget the possibility of Neagle and Rolfe spending some time up top either.
As always, the Galaxy have a bevy of big names and a few quality youngsters at their disposal. Still, like the Black-and-Red, they have many decisions to make regarding their lineups and combinations as well. Ashley Cole, Nigel de Jong and Jelle van Damme all signed with the Galaxy this offseason. Yet there’s a ton of talent already in place in Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, and Giovani dos Santos. Not to mention United States National team member Gyasi Zardes.
Both clubs were knocked out of the CCL, but it’s just the beginning of a long MLS campaign. While no declarations can be made from tonight’s result, it’ll surely be a positive step forward for the team that comes out on top.