The Black-and-Red made it no secret that they wanted to solidify their back line, specifically finding a starting right back. They did just that this week by acquiring Leonardo Jara on a season long loan from Boca Juniors. They also signed last year’s starter Oneil Fisher to a contract extension, literally giving them three capable starters. They also have depth behind them in Akeem Ward, Chris Odoi-Atsem not to mention both Jalen Robinson and Paul Arriola have played the position when needed.
Jara has made over 150 appearances in the Argentine Primera Division, he’s also shared the field with current D.C. United players Acosta and Lucas Rodríguez back in 2015. General Manager of the Black-and-Red Dave Kasper had this to say on the acquisition. “Acquiring an outside back was high on our priority list this offseason. Leonardo has good defensive instincts and also has the range and ability to get forward and add a dimension to our attack.” That last part is huge for D.C. United, last year it was clear how much of an impact Fisher and Mora made by joining the attack. Their pace allowed them to really put the pressure on teams.
As for Fisher, last year was a big year for him. Totaling career highs in appearances, starts, minutes, interceptions, tackles won, and clearances. Oneil started 16 consecutive games for the Black-and-Red before getting hurt on September 29th, proving that he had a stranglehold on the position. “We’re excited to re-sign Oniel after a promising first season with us that was cut short through injury” said Kasper.
As for centre back, D.C. United has Steven Birnbaum who continues to improve as the leader of that group. Veteran Fredric Brillant should be the starter next to Steve to start the season. Similar to the wide back positions, the Black-and-Red have depth there as well. Two homegrown players provide that in Jalen Robinson and Donavan Pines. Robinson played in stretches last season in different spots across the backline, Ben Olsen said this would be a big year for Jalen. Pines is the youngest, but he brings a different dimension of size and athleticism to that bunch.
Olsen stated several times last year when talking about balancing minutes for both Arriola and Steiber that competition brings good problems. It’s good to see that applies to the back line this year and it will be interesting to see if Brillant can hold the two youngsters off or if one of them can supplant him and earn that spot in the middle of the backline next to Birnbaum.
With the backline secure, at least from the looks of it (on paper), D.C. United’s other priority is finding some additional help up top. They have to find another forward, Darren Mattocks is no longer with the team and Rooney doesn’t have a backup as of now.