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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 02/10/2011

Ignoring the burning wreckage, part 3: the midfield

By Jeff Maurer

It was around this time last year that United decided to fire their entire midfield. Fred: traded. Christian Gomez: released. Danny Szetela: cut. Foribert N'Galula: N'Gone. Ben Olsen: retired. It was weird. The "fire everybody" strategy doesn't really work. It didn't work when Nixon tried to fire the entire justice department, it didn't work when Axel Rose fired everybody in Guns 'N Roses, and things aren't looking good for Hosni Mubarak and his recently-fired cabinet. And it sure didn't work for United last year.

United enter 2011 with a surprisingly deep midfield. Two guys who saw a lot of minutes last year - Kurt Morsink and Stephen King - are almost certainly relegated to role-player status. They're also young: the average age is 23.1 years, and you could conceive of a starting four with an average age of 21.3 (and that lineup includes 40-year MLS-veteran Santino Quaranta on the left). If nothing else, there should be a good amount of competition for spots in United's 2011 midfield. In 2010, it sometimes seemed that playing time was going to whoever showed up on time with a clean uniform.

In alphabetical order...

Branko Boskovic: I wasn't overly impressed with him last year, but I'm not ready to give up on him, either. It's worth noting that he wasn't in game shape when he joined the roster, and I think it showed. I've read an interview or two with him this preseason, and he seems committed, seems to be taking things seriously. Which is the first thing you want from an MLS designated player: to not be on vacation. Marcelo Gallardo was so on vacation that he might as well have been wearing one of those fuzzy pink FBI hats that you buy from street vendors.

Junior Carreiro: I'm going to stand by my policy of not commenting on a player whom I haven't really seen play. You can't trust stats, and you can't trust other people's reports...except, of course, for my player rankings, which are scientific and precise. United seem to view him as a long-term prospect on the wing.

Stephen King/Kurt Morsink: I'm grouping them together because they're the same type of player: serviceable, reliable options. They don't make much in terms of waves or money. You can plug them into the lineup and still win, but if you're counting on them to drive the team, then, well...2010 happens. These players in MLS are like the green turtle shells in Mario Kart: kinda useful, but not incredibly valuable because there's always another one laying around.

Perry Kitchen/Conor Shanosky: These two are also similar players: young guys who are potential future stars. I'm probably cheating by including Kitchen here: United clearly  think of him as a defender. But I'm looking forward to seeing both him and Shanosky play; I've heard good things. Players like these two will make the Open Cup and other non-league games a lot of fun to watch this year (we're not in Superliga, are we? Did MLS punish us with that for finishing last?).

Dax McCarty: The steal of the expansion draft. Watching him play against Chile a few weeks ago, I really couldn't figure out why Dallas left him unprotected. As I have speculated before, maybe it was sunburn-related: he might be way too ginger-y for the summer Dallas sun. Makes sense that Portland wanted him. I wasn't happy to see Rodney Wallace go, but I still think this was a very good trade for United; McCarty is quality, and I think we'll see that this year.

Andy Najar: Santino Quaranta. Bobby Convey. Freddy Adu. United's teen prospects don't always (or ever) turn into the stars that they're projected to be. In fact, Freddy Adu's "Did Not Dress" line in Goff's Americans Abroad report recently moved to the Turkish second division. So: bah humbug, there's no Santa Claus, and other such negativity. Let's temper our expectations. But none of that changes the fact that a 17-year-old played very well for us last year.

Santino Quaranta: The fan base seems to be divided on Tino - some think he's awesome, some think he sucks. Put me in the "meh" camp. Part of my ambivalence is caused by the fact that I LIKE him; he's got an amazing story, and I want him to succeed. He's also become a high-work-rate, leadership-type player, which is the most surprising transformation since Marky Mark became a legitimately good actor. It's also true that, even though Tino has played in MLS since the Reagan Administration, he's only 26, so you could argue that some of the weaker parts of his game (passing, crossing) might still improve. I hope so, because whether as a starter or as a sub, I see him getting significant minutes this year.

Clyde Simms: Clyde Simms is NOT like a box of chocolates: you know exactly what you're going to get. He's a good MLS player. The fact that Clyde might end up on the bench just shows how far United's midfield has come; for long stretches last year, he was United's best midfield player by some distance.

So, how will they line up? I have no idea. Could be a diamond, could be a flat four. They could use a 3-5-2. They could go defensive with McCarty and Simms, or they could play Boskovic in a central attacking role. They could play Boskovic on the left. Najar could play the creative role. The important thing is: we have options this year. Last year, our only options were to 1) watch our midfield get dominated, or 2) see what's on the DVR.

Previous installments of "Ignoring the burning wreckage..."

Part 2: Defense

Part 1: Goalkeeping

By Jeff Maurer  | February 10, 2011; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Jeff Maurer, United  | Tags:  Jeff Maurer, United  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: A red road renaissance
Next: Race to the bottom


Wowza. Color me impressed that a Mario Kart reference was used in a soccer post.

Posted by: sockey1 | February 11, 2011 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Good analysis Jeff. I for one am looking much more forward to this season. At least on paper, or on the interwebz, etc.

Posted by: DadRyan | February 11, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse


Pretty good analysis overall.

Can't agree on Gallardo-he wasn't able to stay healthy (not a big surprise) in the hack-fest that is MLS. However, when he was able to play, he was impressive. Not the same as "vacation".

Your take on Tino is right on.

Posted by: Towson_Tiger | February 13, 2011 10:52 PM | Report abuse

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