D.C. United’s 2015 campaign came to an end with a playoff defeat to their bitter rival Red Bulls. This season it was a round earlier, and at home to a Montreal team that was not heavily favored. This similar result brought out the question of whether the team has “peaked out”? I say no, despite the frustrations of many supporters, I don’t believe they have.
The change I saw in this team was sparked by the loan of Luciano Acosta from Boca Juniors. United completed a permanent transfer shortly after the season’s end. Acosta, 22, tallied three goals and 11 assists in 31 regular-season appearances and finished the season with a bang as 7 of the assists and 1 goal came in the team’s final nine games. Lamar Neagle, Patrick Nyarko, and Rob Vincent also boosted 2016 scoring. These moves were largely successful as United improved upon 2015’s scoring total of 43 with 53 goals in 2016.
Rumors of Steve Birnbaum’s potential transfer started swirling in the summer, and were put to rest on December 2nd. The U.S. National Team center back signed a long term deal to keep him in DC. The deal is guaranteed for three years, and includes a club-held option in 2020.
The team now needs to shift their focus to finding a striker who can lead the line in the opposing half. A few more sharp moves from general manager Dave Kasper will be to keeping a strong line-up not only intact but improving.
D.C. United’s 2017 schedule it includes multiple games against against the new expansion teams. United will play three games against Atlanta United and take a trip up north to face Minnesota United.
United opens their season at RFK Stadium on March 4th against Sporting Kansas City. They will then travel to Yankee Stadium for NYCFC’s home opener on March 12. This will be the last season that RFK Stadium hosts DC United. The team plans to play all 2018 home matches at the new Buzzard Point Venue.
As expected, the season will again end with the Atlantic Cup. This year’s Atlantic Cup features two games in New Jersey and only one at RFK Stadium as United will fight to keep the trophy in DC.
Expected United Lineup
There’s no reason to shift away from the formation and philosophical change that brought the team success from late July onward. There’ll be some tweaks in terms of roles, and some young guys threatening to break into the starting 11. With Patrick Mullins and Jose Guillermo Ortiz up top, a 4-4-2 is very possible.
Side note: This is just a prediction. There is no indication that Sean Franklin will be moved to center back immediately. The back four could likely stay as Kemp-Birnbaum-Bosewell-Franklin, with Kofi Opare and Jalen Robinson still being groomed.
Concludion – A Younger Future
To avoid the plateau many United supporters feel the team is facing, the team need to go younger. Transitioning to the above lineup to include three younger players accomplishes this. Franklin to Chris Odoi Atsem, Marcelo Sarvas to Ian Harkes, and Bobby Boswell to Opare. While bold and unorthodox, these moves would allow for long term success. It’s great to have so many veterans on the team, but at some point it’s inevitable that they miss some time.
These three younger options can step in and make it hard for Olsen to pull them out of the lineup. Younger players can’t grow by watching from the bench. At some point you need to take a leap of faith and give youth a chance.