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United's Roster Status

D.C. United has another 26 days to finalize the 24-man roster, and while most slots are locked up, the coaching staff will have to make a few difficult decisions.

To recap, under the new MLS roster guidelines, clubs have the flexibility to sign between 18 and 20 senior roster players and four developmental players who do not count against the salary cap.

GOALKEEPERS
Louis Crayton is the incumbent starter but has been having a shoulder problem and is out of contract midseason. He has taken a week off to return to Liberia after the death of his mother. Zach Wells has left the club and is weighing retirement, which leaves rookie Milos Kocic, a 6-foot-4 Serb from Loyola College in Baltimore who is unsigned, in prime position to make a lasting impression in preseason. If United retains three keepers, James Thorpe is likely to return as a developmental player. However, with two absences in Bradenton this week, the club has invited Evan Bush, a four-year starter at the University of Akron, for workouts.

DEFENDERS
Marc Burch and rookie Rodney Wallace (Generation Adidas/developmental) are left backs and Bryan Namoff is set to return on the right. Brazilian Roger, 2008 revelation Greg Janicki and Devon McTavish are the top central options. Mike Zaher (left back) is trying to earn a developmental roster spot while Kyle Veris, a 6-4 central defender who played in Norway last year, remains on trial for a senior role. Gonzalo Martinez, a starter last year, is on the preseason roster but not in the club's plans. He will either sign in his native Colombia or negotiate a deal elsewhere in MLS, which would allow United to trade his rights.

The thread continues on the jump with the midfielders and forwards.....

MIDFIELDERS
Fred can play left or right but prefers the center. Ivan Guerrero is a left-sided player. Santino Quaranta can play on the right, in the middle or as a forward. Clyde Simms and Joe Vide are defensive midfielders. Andrew Jacobson, the 2008 draft pick who has returned from France, plays centrally and is about to finalize a senior roster contract. Ben Olsen is testing his surgically repaired left ankle and appears on course to continue his career in a reduced role. Rookie Brandon Barklage is a flank player trying to earn a developmental slot. At age 26, Domenic Mediate will have to win a senior contract after missing much of last season with concussion symptoms, while Ryan Miller is eligible for a developmental deal. Bob De Jong, a 17-year-old Dutchman, has arrived on trial. The elephant in the room is Christian Gomez, the former MVP who might return in a trade with Colorado and re-claim the playmaking role after Marcelo Gallardo's exit.

FORWARDS
Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emilio return to the frontline. Thabiso Khumalo and Francis Doe provide support off the bench. Rookie Chris Pontius has been compared to a young Pat Noonan. Taiwo Atieno, who showed well with USL1 Puerto Rico last year, is on trial. The club failed to sign Honduran Walter Martinez and might be looking abroad for additional help.

SENIOR LOCKS (15): Crayton, Namoff, Janicki, McTavish, Roger, Burch, Quaranta, Guerrero, Fred, Simms, Vide, Moreno, Emilio, Doe, Khumalo.
SENIOR PROBABLES (4): Kocic, Olsen, Jacobson, Pontius.
SENIOR CANDIDATES (4): Mediate, Veris, Atieno, Wells.
DEVELOPMENTAL CANDIDATES (7): Wallace (lock), Thorpe, Bush, Miller, Zaher, Barklage, De Jong.

By Steve Goff  |  February 4, 2009; 12:09 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Comments

Who do we have as an option for the No. 2 Right Back, behind Namoff? I know he plays a lot of minutes, but we seem to have decent cover everywhere but Right Back.

Posted by: TCompton | February 4, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Sure, they're locks, but they're not Emilio's.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 4, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Wow. So many interesting possibilities.

I was wondering about Crayton's contract -- guaranteed? Given that his contract is up at midseason, the injury and his return to Liberia, I think "lock" might not be a lock. It seems fairly certain that he would have the starting job if he's ready and wants it, but I'm just saying...

Veris' size is definitely intriguing. With Roger here on a one-year deal, I'd love to see him develop. Atieno would be interesting to see, as well. I'm guessing that if Veris is here, he's fairly confident of making the squad. If neither show well enough, I guess Mediate might squeak through. If he doesn't make it here, I would expect him to land on his feet somewhere in MLS. Of course, If Gomez comes to DC, there might not be a roster slot available to any of these three guys.

Lots of competition for the developmental slots, too. De Jong's youth makes him the most interesting candidate. I wonder what he's doing here, but I'm rooting for him. Miller's training in Europe this winter might give him a leg up, but it seemed that the coaches liked Zaher last year, so he's got a good chance of sticking -- again, if not in DC, then somewhere else in MLS...

Posted by: fischy | February 4, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I liked what I saw of Atieno in the USL-D1 last season. He has a shot, although the depth up top might hurt him.

Curious about the Dutch kid, I like that United is taking chances on bringing guys like that in. I liked the kid from Fulham a few years ago, even if he couldn't handle the weather.

As for cover at right back, that might be how Mediate gets a job. His versatility might help him. I think McTavish could slide out there in a pinch as well.

Lots of great pieces to this roster, now it's just figuring how they fit together...

Posted by: Longshoe | February 4, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I believe that McTavish is a more than capable back up to Namoff on the right. Also, should Mediate make the team (and right now that is very iffy considering he is in a battle for the last possible senior roster spot - unless he is willing to take a developmental spot, which is highly unlikely) he could step in in a pinch.

Posted by: ARickey | February 4, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

So presuming that the team keeps 20 seniors, after you remove the 15 locks, only 5 senior spots remain for 8 candidates, 4 of whom are probable. Not good odds for Dom, Kyle, and crew.

Posted by: DCU_Rick | February 4, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Wow. So many interesting possibilities.

-----------------------

And yet, so few - only one opportunity for a senior roster slot and three for a developmental slot. These new roster limitations are ridiculous.

Posted by: combedge | February 4, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I believe that Mediate isn't eligible for a developmental spot because of his age.

Posted by: combedge | February 4, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

1. I think we've got reasonable cover for Namoff at right back. Mediate will want to show he can contribute there. Simms has played some right back. McTavish has played some right back. And I'll tell you what--I wouldn't even be shocked to see Ben Olsen get some time at right back if Namoff went down. If Olsen doesn't have the engine to give 90 in midfield, we have better outside options, we're not going to play a 3-5-2, then he becomes a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy: some minutes at right back, at outside mid, at D-mid, subbing for A-mid late in the game when we're holding a 1-goal lead.

2. I don't think there are as many "locks" for the senior roster as it would appear. For instance, Janicki may have the inside track but if he's not a starter and Veris looks better than Veris makes the senior roster and Janicki gets cut. Or if Mediate makes the senior roster. Or if we add another attacker (then either Doe or Khumalo is gone).

3. If we add Gomez, that changes the entire roster dance. Fred probably moves to right outside mid. Olsen than is likely our first midfielder sub. Quaranta is then likely a forward subbing for either Moreno or Emilio.

Posted by: JoeW1 | February 4, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Despite all the roster talk, I think we're going to struggle with Soehn at the helm.

Posted by: Matte | February 4, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

That last comment was directed to ARickey's discussion of Dom's willingness to take a developmental slot...

Posted by: combedge | February 4, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

@JoeW1:
Simms and McT were awful at right back. Olsen has never played there, at least to my knowledge, so you'd have to wonder if he would be any better. Dom, I just don't know. Did he play left back last year a little bit? I can't remember seeing him at right back at all. I just don't see us having any real viable options there if Namoff goes down.

Posted by: Matte | February 4, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Bob De Jong an olympic speedskater?

Posted by: CrippledKeeper | February 4, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

so there's no chance that Lyle Adams might sign with DCU?

I worry about us all over the field. I don't think there's any section of this time I feel really good about.

Offense: Moreno can't do it forever, or can he? Depth is an issue.

Midfield: Still don't have a right-sided midfielder. Who will be the playmaker?

Defense: Central defense is unproven. Burch an occasional liability at left back.

Goalie: Crayton - contract till mid-season, hurt and in Liberia. Wells - driving across the country. Kocic - unsigned. Hmm... maybe we should have taken the already signed Stefan Frei.

Coach: Soehn. Does he have a plan or is he making it up as he goes along?

I'm hoping that this year is addition by subtraction and with some of the distractions gone we'll move forward. If not, this will be another 'transition' year for United.

Posted by: churtmah | February 4, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

@ Goff

It is my sense (maybe incorrectly) that Christian wanted to leave last year. Does he want to return here?

Posted by: carnack | February 4, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Of course, it's easy to speculate without attending practice or having conversations with the decider-ers....

Re: Senior Locks and Probables
There are a lot of "Lock" guys who were on the team last year...who played a lot of minutes last year...and who were on the field for many an anemic performance.

If the front office were to bring in a foreign Forward, why is Khumalo a lock? I like the kid, but maybe this new MLS reality doesn't suit him if there's a more-qualified replacement. What about Burch or Vide? Are there MLS teams chomping at the bit to sign them? Kyle Veris? 6-4 is intriguing, but the dude was cut by the Los Angeles Galaxy. Gullit and Lalas might not win any MLS Mensa awards, but they didn't think he was good enough to play defense for them.

Also, in the tally, we should keep in mind that a Goalkeeper will need to be added as a Senior Lock, so there's just 4 positions available for: Olsen, Pontius, Jacobson, Mediate, Veris, Atieno, and Gomez. And that's without our "international web of talent scouts" contributing....

Posted by: DWE4 | February 4, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

How does Kocic move ahead of Thorpe before any games are played? On height?

Posted by: JkR- | February 4, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

@carnack: link to thread about Gomez...
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/soccerinsider/2009/01/gallardo_gomez_update.html

So is Gomez in camp?

Posted by: DadRyan | February 4, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the thorough update Steve.

"Marc Burch and rookie Rodney Wallace (Generation Adidas/developmental) are left backs and Bryan Namoff is set to return on the right. Brazilian Roger, 2008 revelation Greg Janicki and Devon McTavish are the top central options."

So we essentially have 3 left backs, and barring a Janicki/McT pairing, one of them will have to play center back (Roger, as you mentioned previously, is a left back who switched to center before being released by Fluminense). Worried about our defense already. But as United's FO always says, "you can never have too many forwards" :-/

Posted by: Kev29 | February 4, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Kyle Veris? 6-4 is intriguing, but the dude was cut by the Los Angeles Galaxy. Gullit and Lalas might not win any MLS Mensa awards, but they didn't think he was good enough to play defense for them.....

Posted by: DWE4 | February 4, 2009 1:19 PM
__________________________________
This, in and of itself, would be a good reason for DCU to take a look at Veris!

Posted by: schmuckatelli | February 4, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Bob De Jong an olympic speedskater?

Posted by: CrippledKeeper | February 4, 2009 1:08 PM

I think a certain Olympic swimmer was doing that, though...

Posted by: Reignking | February 4, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I think a certain Olympic swimmer was doing that, though...

Posted by: Reignking | February 4, 2009 1:41 PM

No, you're thinking of Knob de Bong

Posted by: Kev29 | February 4, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

@carnack -- a lot changes in a year. A year ago, Gomez was furious at the DCU FO for not wanting to meet his 3-yr. contract demand. Now, he's spent the better part of the year on the Rapids' bench -- and, he's thinking more fondly of his time in DC. Funny, how the cruel real world tamps down our expectations.

I agree that we have some weakness at right midfield. Hopefully, Olsen will be able to fill that role, at least in combination with Quaranta. We also have a long-term issue regarding the playmaker's spot. Gomez or Fred could be a stop-gap, and we have to see how the young players, including Jacobson, shake out. I would expect that DCU will use the DP this summer and/or next year's draft to bolster the midfield.

Of course, you can never have too many forwards.

Posted by: fischy | February 4, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

De Jong is here to stay. No long road trips, either. Something to do with Fear of Flying.

Posted by: fischy | February 4, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Our prospects for this upcoming season are not looking good at this moment...

Posted by: GoUnited | February 4, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Actually I like our prospects better this season than last.
We were bringing in five new starters last year a the same time. This year we could field a competant field of returnees including possibly Gomez who is a better a-mid for a target forward like Emilio.
Janicki is the real deal. He more than impressed me last year. Boyzzz is tested and known. The only thing is, Jaime is another year older. I'd love to know how his pace compares in 100m to what it was years ago. DC has to have that data. Bottom line, we're a tighter team that knows each other and works better together than last year. Skill level is equal.

Posted by: dsheon | February 4, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I'd call Pontius a lock. He's already on a senior contract just like Vide and Khumalo. A handful of the already signed run a small risk of competiting for a roster spot if several of the trialists look amazing (like JoeW said above).

I think Adams is a possibility but he probably won't get more than developmental money this year. Which is about right given the system and all things considered.

I think all 4 senior probables will be signed (if DC really thought Kocic was worth that high a draft pick). Wells coming back now would cause a roster headache as 3 senior GK's would be too much.

Mediate, Veris, and Atieno? It seems it may depend on what position is thought needed as they're 3 very different players. Mediate is versatile for depth. Veris was about as bad a starting CB as I've seen in MLS, might as well call up David Stokes. Atieno is worth a look at this level. All three may need to displace 1 of the 19 signed (or drafted highly). There's no guarantee every team will start the season with 20 signed though an inability to do so would point towards being severely up against the salary cap (or a planned signing on the way before April 15th).

Posted by: undrafted | February 4, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I would let go of Domenic Mediate. Showed me nothing last season.

Posted by: RM27 | February 4, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

photos from Bradenton:
http://www.behindthebadge.com/2009/02/photos-from-bradenton.php
and story from DCU website with Quaranta. Positive quotes about the feel in the locker room:
http://dcunited.mlsnet.com/news/team_news.jsp?ymd=20090203&content_id=215557&vkey=news_dcu&fext=.jsp&team=t103

I know it's propaganda, but BTB is trying to step up it's game sooo. I figure it's all positive as long as they don't pull some Star Search live TV thing like the Sounders.LOL

Posted by: DadRyan | February 4, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I would let go of Domenic Mediate. Showed me nothing last season.

Posted by: RM27 | February 4, 2009 2:19 PM

---------------------------------------

Is this some kind of sick joke? He was out with post-concussion syndrome. Guy needs a shot to show he can still play

Posted by: Josh8 | February 4, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I would let go of Domenic Mediate. Showed me nothing last season.

Posted by: RM27 | February 4, 2009 2:19 PM

My apologies forgot he had "concussion symptoms....." last year, still he has a very slim chance of staying.

Posted by: RM27 | February 4, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: RM27 | February 4, 2009 2:30 PM

-----------------------------------

Not a problem, but with some people on here, it's hard to tell. And I agree, Dom has the ships stacked against him but this organization has always looked after its own and I assume he would have a better chance here than elsewheres.

Posted by: Josh8 | February 4, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I think there was a brief "Ben Olsen at right fullback" experiment under mad scientist Ray Hudson. Mile High Stadium may have been the laboratory.

As I remember, Ben fared poorly. But ZiZi Roberts is no longer in the league.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | February 4, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Matte:

When did McTavish show himself to be "awful" at right back? I don't recall him getting much time there in any competition. It's also his more natural position (as compared to center back, which he's clearly no more than a stop-gap, and even then a risky one).

JoeW:

I don't see Olsen playing right back at all. It's a poor use of his talents, and exposes him to footraces. To me, it seems like a poor use of his talents.

***

Given the pool of candidates, I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of those developmental candidates in with a shot at that last senior slot. Veris, with LA in 2007, did not impress me at all; undrafted's comparison of him and Stokes is fairly apt (and those that know me well know that this is a particularly unflattering thing for me to say). Atieno plays a similar game to Doe, but I think Doe has more potential. I see the two of them in direct competition, with Doe at a marked advantage. Mediate probably has the best chance as of right now, and his versatility (can play on either flank in the back or in midfield) is something in his favor. He is a slightly better version of Craig Thompson, but he's also probably as good as he's ever going to be.

Wallace and Thorpe/Bush will take up 2 developmental slots, so Miller, Zaher, Barklage, and De Jong would in theory have a shot at those 2 spots as well as being more serious competition for the last senior spot than Veris. Zaher showed promise at left back, but it's hard to see him playing much with Burch, Wallace, and Guerrero all already on the roster. Miller wasn't too bad in limited time, and there aren't that many options at right back (after Namoff and McTavish, you're looking at Wallace switching sides or moving Simms back, neither of which is palatable). Mediate and Miller will probably be in direct competition. I don't know anything about Barklage, but he's being billed as a long shot. De Jong could be a real find or he could be more suited for the academy team...who knows? I'd be interested to find out how he's even eligible to sign for us due to FIFA age regulations.

At this point, I see Mediate taking the last senior spot (assuming Olsen's ankle holds up) due to lack of other options. Personally, I'd like to see us get a couple more trialists in. Any acquisition of an attacking midfielder would obviously push him off the roster, which has to be considered. There's a chance Soehn could retain Miller as a developmental player and cut Mediate to leave a spot open for Gomez or whoever else is on the radar (please tell me there is someone else on the radar).

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | February 4, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Not a problem, but with some people on here, it's hard to tell. And I agree, Dom has the ships stacked against him but this organization has always looked after its own and I assume he would have a better chance here than elsewheres.

Posted by: Josh8 | February 4, 2009 2:51 PM

Agreed. It's starting to look like a stack roster with the addition of couple of new players, but yeah he has a better chance.

Posted by: RM27 | February 4, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

@Chest_Rockwell: I don't remember exactly when he played back there. I think it was only for one game. Last season it was. Brutal. He was getting killed out there.

Simms, similarly played only a short stint back there, might have also been last season.

Not attractive stuff in either regard.

Posted by: Matte | February 4, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Here are the positions I think where we have solid starters (and by solid, I mean very good at the position):

Forwards: Jaime and Emilio
Left midfield: Guerrero
Holding midfield: Simms
Right back: Namoff

That's about half a team - and that's if Jaime can make it through a full season. After 2 years I'm still not sold on Fred, and I still don't really know what position he plays. Santino is better suited at Forward but we'll play him out wide right because there aren't other options. The defense is the defense (besides Namoff). Who's the goalie?

I guess you do have to get rid of the dead wood first, so I will give credit to DCU for unloading their 5 South American flops from last year.

Posted by: churtmah | February 4, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Matte:

I do agree entirely with you on Simms playing back there. If it comes to that, we're in a lot of trouble.

As for McTavish, I'm pretty confident that he could play right back well enough. One bad outing doesn't always make the player, and it could be that we were having problems in midfield or central defense that were hanging him out to dry (this has happened a lot in the past few years when our possession game doesn't shield the defense). I see his best position as a somewhat conservative right back (not as conservative as Namoff, but not attack-minded either). He's a good athlete, not uncomfortable with the ball, and on the flank he's going to have a lot of vocal support from the center backs and in goal (assuming we have a defensive leader...Roger, please be good). I would be surprised if he was worse than adequate, given the right support.

McTavish has seemed to me like a guy that really needs to get used to who he's around and be comfortable with them to perform well. When paired with Burch or Carroll in central defense last year, he really struggled (despite being the more experienced defender out of the pairing). Alongside Peralta, his play was much better; the problem on those occasions was Peralta's individual play.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | February 4, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

46 days . . . . .

Posted by: Curious99 | February 4, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Mawale Ange N'Silu, some six foot 180 pounder, began his trial yesterday with DC.. his postion is unknown, and a google search brings up only 1 result... check out behindthebadge for more

Posted by: BurchFan4 | February 5, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Pre-season training camp is always exciting b/c "hope springs eternal".BUT...this roster looks awfully weak to me if we remove the springtime blinders. Remember that Vide&Guerrero were cut by expasion SJ. Doe &Khumalo came up b/c there was no one else;they tried. Jaime (and Chr.Gomez) are clearly over the hill; they may be good for 20 minutes or so but not much more. You just can't slow down the game forever.Remember what B.Arena said as RBNY coach:"it is easy to figure out DCU". We need good dynamic players and also bring in
a seasoned CB--hopefully Roger??-- and a seasoned MF, no older than 30, and some young speedsters up front a la Rolfe, Oduro. Right now we are heading for last place
and that is not even counting TS.

Posted by: bechtoldpk | February 5, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

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