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Posted at 10:37 AM ET, 02/21/2011

D.C. United roster status and analysis

By Steve Goff

While we have a few minutes before being blindsided by the next D.C. United personnel move, let's take a closer look at the roster by position:

GOALKEEPERS
In camp: Steve Cronin, Bill Hamid, Chase Harrison, Pat Onstad, Joe Willis.

Status: Cronin is out for months with a broken wrist. Hamid has recovered from shoulder surgery and is likely to see his first match action in South Carolina next month. Onstad, the 43-year-old keepers coach, has come out of retirement and will sign a short-term contract. Harrison and rookie Willis have been competing for a reserve slot.

If the season began today, the starter would be: Onstad. He's fit and carries decades of experience. He didn't have a great 2010 in Houston, but until Hamid is cleared and regains match rhythm, Onstad is the most realistic option.

For defenders, midfielders and forwards.....

DEFENDERS
In camp: Rodrigo Brasesco, Marc Burch, Dejan Jakovic, Perry Kitchen, Chris Korb, Devon McTavish, Ethan White, Daniel Woolard, Jed Zayner.

Status: Brasesco, Jakovic and Kitchen are the primary center backs following Julius James' release. Burch and Woolard are the options on the left, Zayner and rookie Korb on the right. McTavish is the handyman and homegrown White is a long-term central prospect who just returned from a calf injury.

If the season began today, the starters would be: Zayner on the right, Jakovic and the Kitchen -- whom the club has fallen head over heels in love with -- and Burch on the left.

MIDFIELDERS
In camp: Branko Boskovic, Fred, Junior Carreiro, Stephen King, Dax McCarty, Kurt Morsink, Andy Najar, Santino Quaranta, Conor Shanosky, Clyde Simms, Brandon Barklage.

Status: Coach Ben Olsen has numerous options and combinations before him. Does he play with two deeper central midfielders and no attacking central man? Does he prefer five in the middle and one up top? Is Najar a true wing or, in the long run, a withdrawn forward or central midfielder? Should Boskovic play on the left, slightly pinched inside as he does with his national team, or serve as the orchestrator in the middle?

If the season started today, the starters would be: In a four-man midfield with two deep central midfielders, it would be Simms and McCarty, with Najar and Boskovic on the flanks, or McCarty and Boskovic centrally, with Najar and Quaranta wide. With five in midfield, you could see Simms and McCarty supporting Boskovic or Najar, and then Boskovic or Najar and Quaranta on the wings. Morsink is the first option off the bench in a holding role, and Fred, in his second stint with DCU, promises an element of flair in attack.

FORWARDS
In camp: Blake Brettschneider, Charlie Davies, Joseph Ngwenya, Chris Pontius, Josh Wolff, Sergio Villarreal.

Status: After a long layoff from first-team action, Davies needs time to restore fitness and rhythm. Pontius, back from hamstring surgery, seeks to regain his 2009 rookie form. Wolff brings experience and cunning. Ngwenya appears to be a solid 20-minute option and periodic starter. Rookie Brettschneider scored twice and Colombian trialist Villarreal had the other in Sunday's 3-1 exhibition win over Ventura County Fusion.

If the season started today, the starters would be: Davies is on his way to a starting job. Today? Perhaps not. Three weeks from now, yes, probably. If Olsen goes with five in midfield, Davies would serve as the front-runner. In a four-man alignment, a Davies-Pontius partnership carries promise. Quaranta and Najar are also options up front.

Of note: New MLS guidelines allow clubs to carry up to 30 players on the final roster. United currently has 30 in camp but that number will drop in the coming weeks. A decision on Villarreal is likely after the current California camp, and the goalkeeping situation will need clarity. United will play at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday night, then face Chivas USA on a Home Depot Center training field on Friday before returning to Washington and preparing for the last leg of training camp, the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, S.C., March 5-12.

By Steve Goff  | February 21, 2011; 10:37 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  | Tags:  D.C. United  
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Next: Tuesday kickaround: CONCACAF Champions League, Gold Cup, Americans abroad, TV listings

Comments

We need more midfielders, bring back Castillo

Posted by: TenoriosLaptop | February 21, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the update Steve.

Posted by: DadRyan | February 21, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I don't see us keeping all the goalkeepers, but otherwise (salary cap aside) why cut anyone? I'm actually surprised we let James go considering we're only at the roster limit and have several weeks before we need to be in compliance.

If salary cap is the primary concern, I hate to say it, but some of the more veteran guys in redundant positions could be traded for draft picks, allocation money, etc. I would hate to lose any of them but Quaranta, Pontius, and Simms are all guys that seem like ideal candidates to unload in this scenerio.

Just thinking out loud.

Posted by: SoccerVA | February 21, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Very interesting.

I've noticed that Devon McTavish has not featured much, if at all, this preseason. Is he hurt? On the verge of being waived?

Posted by: hoyanick1 | February 21, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

The Davies comment is impressive. I hope he's ready soon. Strangely enough, I was most concerned about Barklage being on the roster, it sounds like he's regained some form, and is ready to develop after a disappointing run of injuries (he's not listed on the roster at dcunited.com).

Posted by: UnitedDemon1 | February 21, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Impressed by your analysis of DC's impression of Kitchen so far in the preseason. We are absolutely loaded in midfield. It would not hurt to trade one of them for some allocation money, draft picks, etc. Although mid-season I am sure there will be at least one key injury.

Still concerned about defense...

Posted by: wanker82 | February 21, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Cut a goalie and bring back James! Please!

Posted by: ericruenes | February 21, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

@DadRyan: how's the weather in Charleston in mid-March?

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 21, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Rand-al-Thor: (If I may take this one)


Just glorious. This weekend won't be great, (T-storms Friday, Low 60s Saturday, High 60s sunday), but the last few days have been Mid 70s and all sun.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | February 21, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

@ericruenes-it was mentioned in an earlier thread, but perhaps James requested his own realease. as Goff points out, the club really likes "the" Kitchen, and it sounds like Brasesco has been penciled in as a starter. If James envisions himself as a starter in this Leauge (or elsehwhere), then he may have wanted a fresh start after considering that he had already been supplanted by the 2 players the club had brought in for competition at CB this offseason.

Posted by: VTUnited | February 21, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

VTUnited: Maybe. But I don't hear much James buzz elsewhere. He was our best player on defense last year and given the option, I would start James today over Jakovic any day. At this point in MLS's development, no one is assured of being "the" starter. I'm interested in seeing Brasesco play though!

Posted by: ericruenes | February 21, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Goff (or anyone else): I don't have a Twitter account, so I don't know how these things work, but why do tweets sometimes appear on your Twitter page, then disappear, and then reappear?

Posted by: universityandpark | February 21, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I don't get the James love. He was at his best a physical prensce who played hard. At his worse he was a hack with little ball skills. Cutting James is a signal that the staff loves Kitchen and the new era of DC is going to be based on skill. If we want to play possession soccer we need CBs with high levels of technique and ball skills.

I see this team playing a hybrid of 4-2-2-2 and a 4-3-3. I think it is interesting that Pontinus is in a battle to start. This team has some depth in offense but I am not sure if we have the top quality to be a contender to win the East. Oh well, I'll take a team that is competitive and a playoff contender.

I wish White was a RB.

Posted by: grubbsbl | February 21, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Many thanks for the update and analysis!

Any word on live coverage for any of the exhibitions?

Posted by: edmundburke247 | February 21, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

@ericruenes - the reason you've heard no James buzz anywhere else is because, as Goff put it, he is not a very good player. not to touch off another Julius James debate, but he was the "best defender" on a terrible and injury riddled team last season. When healthy, Jakovic has the phyical tools and potential to be one of the top central defenders in MLS, while James is simply a prototypical over-achiever. He is fine for depth, but if this team wants to be good (not even great), then they have to rely on more talented players to be starters.

Posted by: VTUnited | February 21, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I am much more encouraged than I was at end of last season!!!

Let's put the RED back in the Black and RED!!!

VAMOS UNITED!!!

Posted by: 9Nine9 | February 21, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Fascinating possibilities. Olsen has to make a decision about what he wants to do with central midfield...and from that all other options fold out. Play a 4-2-3-1? Or a 442 (with two central holding mids)?

I would hope that a middle of the field with Jakovic, Kitchen, MaCarty and Simms should be organized with lots of good touches on the ball and difficult for teams to attack through.

Posted by: JoeW1 | February 21, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Can this year's MLS Cup be far behind after all of these moves? ;-)

Posted by: mddeblois | February 21, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Forgive my ignorance but I notice on Uniteds Website lists S TH *2011* as a incentive with the Join Olsen's Army thingy. Any idea what S TH *2011* stands for?

http://www.dcunited.com/olsens-army

Smelly Tottenham Hotspur?


Posted by: 9Nine9 | February 21, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

STH *2011* = Season Ticket Holder 2011

Although I'm not sure why someone would feel the need to advertise that fact on a scarf

Posted by: emanon13 | February 21, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Season Ticket Holder 2011?

Posted by: Josh86 | February 21, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Season Ticket Holder

Posted by: boda-united | February 21, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Bring another forward in. Make a trade.

Send Pontius and a midfielder for Juan Pablo Angel and allocation money.

Posted by: redskinsux | February 21, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you, redskinsux indeed. But not with your comment

Posted by: TenoriosLaptop | February 21, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Anyone wondering why we are paying so much money for a foreign acquisition defender (Brasesco, probably on 170k+ wages) who the club's beat writer doesn't expect to be starting?

I realize that Kitchen and Jacko will both miss time due to the Gold Cup and U-20 obligations. But that's still a big acquisition for a guy that isn't going to be a primary option for us.

Posted by: DCUPedro | February 21, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

26 days until United's first 2011 league match!

Posted by: Curious99 | February 21, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

My thoughts -- Not sure why one commenter suggests it seems Brasesco will start. Certainly, that's not evident in Goff's post, since Goff thinks it'll be Kitchen and Jakovic. However, it's probably true that James had been moved below Brasesco on the depth chart. Perhaps he owuld have been 5th before the end of the season, if White started to show well there. WHite did play both int te center and on the right in college, so he is probably equally prepared to play either position -- but also probably a ways off from being ready to play in MLS.

DCU will certainly release one goalie -- perhaps two, depending on how Willis and Harrison show. he team might prefer to keep Onstad as the emergency 3rd keeper. I think it's fair to assume that Brettschneider and Villarreal are in competition for one reserve forward spot.

That will leave DCU with at least two spots to fill in The future with all that allocation money and cap room they've saved up.


Speaking of which -- I've asked this hither and yon, and I'm still looking for an answer. MLS announced the $2.67 million salary budge, plus any allocation $$$, would be spread among 18 to 20 players. What's the criteria here? Is that meant to cover all senior players? Is that a limit on the # of senior players allowed on the roster? Is that meant merely to cover the 18 or 20 most expensive senior players? (I'm assuming that, at the very least, teams must include their highest-priced players there -- otherwise it's hardly a cap).

Posted by: fischy | February 21, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The 30 player roster combined with the rule that home grown players don't count sure makes for a more interesting pre-season. Lots of possibilities.

Posted by: Curious99 | February 21, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of possibilities. . . .

Has anyone else noticed that United's U-18 team is playing at 1:00 p.m. on March 19th at the Soccerplex? That could make for an interesting way to start the season.

Now if only I'd actually be in town on March 19th.

Posted by: Curious99 | February 21, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

@Curious99 -- Per my comment just above...It's more than just homegrown players whose salaries are cap-exempted. It's also GA players, Per an earlier announcement which I assume is still an active rule, teams are also allowed to exempt players under 25.That rule is not referred to on the MLS roster rules page, but they did make a big deal about it when they announced it (before they announced the cap rules that apply to a sub 18-20 man roster).

I'm still trying to understand how all those fit together. Under 30 man roster, can a team put together 10-12 of these cap-exempt players? Is the 18-20 man salary budget roster meant to cover any and all players not cap-exempt under the above rules? Can teams also exempt other players using some criteria that has not been disclosed?

Posted by: fischy | February 21, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Over the past 10 years DCU has been MLS's worst talent evaluators so I have zero confidence in this roster. They look like a team that will be near the bottom of the East and easily miss the playoffs. Is it too early to start the Payne/Kasper/olsen death watch??

Posted by: euroman | February 21, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

@fishy --

you're right about the GA players. That was played up. But not to worry. By the time we figure it out, the rules will change

Posted by: Curious99 | February 21, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

@fischy - not sure if this actually answers the mechanics of your question or not, but the press release on the roster rules for 2011 states that "teams can now create entire roster made of Home Grown players."

http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/mls-unveils-roster-and-player-rules-2011

and yeah, I misread Goff's statement about Brasesco starting. still doesnt change the point that James was likely buried on the depth chart.

Posted by: VTUnited | February 21, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Over the past 10 years DCU has been MLS's worst talent evaluators so I have zero confidence in this roster. They look like a team that will be near the bottom of the East and easily miss the playoffs. Is it too early to start the Payne/Kasper/olsen death watch??

Posted by: euroman | February 21, 2011 1:44 PM

yeah, considering that in the past 10 years DCU has won an MLS Cup and a couple supporter's shields, id wager the fans of Tornoto FC, Chivas USA, NYRB, and San Jose might want to argue that point. if you are going to make such harsh statements, at least pick a smaller window of time.

and fischy, the press release seems to be contradicted immediately by rule #2 (maximum of 10 off budget players).

Posted by: VTUnited | February 21, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

and now i realize that ive confused "off budget" with "homegrown", so Ill be quiet now. thanks Monday!

Posted by: VTUnited | February 21, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't lump Olsen in with Kasper and Payne, eurobuzzkill. I sense that this year's decisions are driven by Olsen's vision of the team he's aiming to lead, which at this early stage and on paper seems, to me at least, markedly different than the immediate past.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 21, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

The thing is, though, VTUnited, Jakovic couldn't be bothered to give a 5hit for much of last season; while in addition to usually playing better than Jakovic, James actually *fought*. Even when we were horribly outclassed, he *fought*. I'll take a player who wants to be here and always wants to play hard over someone who plays hard only when the mood strikes him every day of the week, twice on Sundays.

But maybe Jakovic will care this year. I hope so.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 21, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Anybody else excited for CCL returning tomorrow?

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | February 21, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Anybody else excited for CCL returning tomorrow?

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | February 21, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I know I am. I gotta get my wisdom teeth pulled tomorrow so I'm gonna lay in bed and watch all the games.

Posted by: grubbsbl | February 21, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

DCU posted a long-ish video package from the VCF match yesterday. Video supplied by a fan. Sheesh.

My takeaways:
1. VCF had way too much of the ball in the 1st half, even before the Wolff red card.

2. That foul didn't look like a straight red, but tough to tell.

3. Except for Najar, we look slow. Especially on D. Again. Davies included.

4. Really nice 1st touches from Brettschneider on both goals.

5. Some nice distribution from King.

6. Lots of touches for Pontius—he was noticeably more involved than any other United player.

7. The 130-lb trialist Villarreal scored on a header. Maybe he studied at the Franco Niell academy.

8. Lots of plays by faces I didn't recognize.

Posted by: benonthehill | February 21, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Just watched that too, and had the same "slow" thought, myself. Slow is something you can tell on video.

Thought Pontius' set piece delivery looked wonderful.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | February 21, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Ben ran a killer fitness session in the morning? Or they're experimenting with concrete orthotics for hamstring pre-hab?

Posted by: OWNTF | February 21, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Or maybe they're saving the play so hard I pull a Hammy and score a ticket to Germany for hernia surgery till the actual season starts?

Posted by: DadRyan | February 21, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Or maybe they are playing on a really wet field due to the thunderstorms the day before combined with training. Btw, that left winger for Ventura has pretty good technical skills combined with speed. Shooting, not so much.

Posted by: TenoriosLaptop | February 21, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

@Jacob, if I could only watch more of the CCL I'd watch. I don't get FSC, or Galavision. I can watch matches ending up on Telefutura though...

Posted by: DadRyan | February 21, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Laptop -- both teams were on the same field.

Agreed with you on the winger, if you're talking of #16. I googled him and it looks like he was with Leicester City Academy out of high school. And his finishing on that tape is certainly no worse than Ngwenya's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Watson

Posted by: OWNTF | February 21, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

My thoughts on the roster are that one or two injuries on defense could sink us very quickly. That's where I'd like to see more depth.

Posted by: SeanWG | February 21, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Only in a World Cup final is foot-to-chest contact not a straight red.

Agreed on Pontius. Boskovic looked good. Tino was looking better than I was afraid he was going to. I assume Harrison coming way out on the VCF goal was a young keeper's error and not that our second-half back line is completely untrustworthy. And VCF were just lost defending on the left side throughout. I'll reserve judgment on speed til I get a longer look with a camera that isn't zooming in and out. On paper, this team should not be slow.

Posted by: dccal | February 21, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

DadRyan, don't forget the Concacaf site streams every game for free, or at least did in the group stage.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | February 21, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

"On paper, this team should not be slow. "


How about on a grass field?


Heeeeeyyyyooooo!

Posted by: JkR- | February 21, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Straight red (points to locker room with earnest).

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 21, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Dang, now I have sit out the next thread...

Posted by: JkR- | February 21, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Is it me, or has no one else noticed that Mark Burch is still a possibilty to be in the starting 11? After all the moves DC has made this off season, I cant believe he is our best option at LB.

Posted by: Jaywag86 | February 21, 2011 7:03 PM | Report abuse

If Marc Burch is our biggest problem, this team is good to go. Your left back might mean the difference between winning MLS Cup or not, but he's not going to keep you out of the playoffs.

Posted by: spidergoose | February 21, 2011 7:40 PM | Report abuse

If Marc Burch is our biggest problem, this team is good to go. Your left back might mean the difference between winning MLS Cup or not, but he's not going to keep you out of the playoffs.

Posted by: spidergoose | February 21, 2011 7:40 PM | Report abuse

I agree with this, Burch might get beat by speed on the outside, but if the center backs and keeper are actually doing their job, they should be able to clean up any crosses coming in from the corner (or if they cut into the center on him, Simms should be able to disrupt either a clear shot on goal, or disrupt the run).

If he really becomes a liability, Zayner played pretty well at LB last year and he can shift over with Brasesco, White or even McTavish taking the RB spot. I know, people have the same problem with McTavish as they do with Burch, but he was part of the defense that played better at the end of the season.

Defense does look like it's going to be the biggest question mark going into the season with so many new pieces back there. If it really underperforms, I'm sure James will be available for one of our patented re-signings to help shore them up while the youngin's learn the game.

Posted by: mercurysnake77 | February 21, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

If Marc Burch is our biggest problem, this team is good to go. Your left back might mean the difference between winning MLS Cup or not, but he's not going to keep you out of the playoffs.

Posted by: spidergoose | February 21, 2011 7:40 PM | Report abuse

I agree with this, Burch might get beat by speed on the outside, but if the center backs and keeper are actually doing their job, they should be able to clean up any crosses coming in from the corner (or if they cut into the center on him, Simms should be able to disrupt either a clear shot on goal, or disrupt the run).

If he really becomes a liability, Zayner played pretty well at LB last year and he can shift over with Brasesco, White or even McTavish taking the RB spot. I know, people have the same problem with McTavish as they do with Burch, but he was part of the defense that played better at the end of the season.

Defense does look like it's going to be the biggest question mark going into the season with so many new pieces back there. If it really underperforms, I'm sure James will be available for one of our patented re-signings to help shore them up while the youngin's learn the game.

Posted by: mercurysnake77 | February 21, 2011 8:56 PM | Report abuse

"teams can now create entire roster made of Home Grown players."

Home-grown is good, but imported is better. Oh, sorry, I thought we were talking about something else;

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 21, 2011 9:15 PM | Report abuse

If I was DC United I would be worried about Zayner. All of Ventura's attacks in the first half came from 24 (Ventura's left wing). He kill Zayner a couple times. It probably didn't help that Quaranta looked like he offered no defense. Either Zayner is going to struggle or 24 is on MLS's radar (I hope it is the later).

Pontius looks like he has improved his services. Certainly a plus.

Posted by: grubbsbl | February 21, 2011 9:51 PM | Report abuse

That Brettschneider kid looked very good scoring those 2 goals. It wasn't some simple tap ins, but quite a show of technical ability to trap and shoot both goals. Hope he continues his form. If it was Quaranta, it would have been all power and no accuracy, i.e., over the crossbar.

Posted by: Charisma_Man | February 21, 2011 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Brasesco, Jackovic, Kitchen , Burch

Najar, Dax, Simms, Branko

Davies, Ngwenya

I think they might play like this at times as well. Diamond midfield.

Dax

Najar Quaranta

Branko

Ngwenya

Posted by: joeortega4 | February 22, 2011 12:32 AM | Report abuse

"Jakovic couldn't be bothered to give a 5hit for much of last season"

Crack your collarbone, come back to the first team the same season, then talk smack.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | February 22, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Perry Kitchen 2011 MLS "Rookie of the Year" - He is the future of the club...

Posted by: Zipfutbol | February 23, 2011 9:07 PM | Report abuse

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