Michael Corleone stated in the Godfather II that he was taught that one should “keep your friends close… but your enemies closer.” Therefore, it is only fitting that a New York Red Bulls fan write the DC United 2019 fantasy preview.
2018 was a tale of two seasons for DC: Pre-Rooney and Post-Rooney. The club languished near the bottom of the table for the first half of the season with a mere 10 points in their first 13 matches, thanks in no small part to an over-saturation of away matches and bye weeks while Audi Field was being completed. However, the flip completely switched once their stadium was opened, Wayne Rooney had arrived, and Russell Canouse returned to fitness. DC United went on an absolute tear, climbing all the way back from a near-20-point deficit to finishing 4th in the Eastern Conference. As exhilarating as their ascendance was in 2018, the hearts of DC and their supporters were broken in the knockout round: DC were eliminated by Columbus via PKs when they went up against a literal brick wall in (Manchester City-bound) Zack Steffen, who stuffed both Rooney and Luciano Acosta before Nick DeLeon sailed his attempt, leaving the visiting Crew victorious.
DC primarily lined up in a 4-2-3-1 during the 2018 season which featured a free-flowing attack and a fairly active pressing scheme, albeit one that focused more on pressure and turnover generation in the defensive third. DC’s formidable duo ofRussell Canouse and Junior Moreno are the centerpieces of the DC defensive setup and are tasked with being the primary disruptive forces on their side of the pitch; whatever success the club enjoys in 2019 will be thanks in no small part to how they perform in front of the DC back line.
Once in possession, DC tends to focus on building up from the back and ultimately getting the ball at the feet of Lucho Acosta – from there, he is able to distribute to either of his talented wingers or feed the rock to Wayne Rooney, who’s dual-threat skillset forces opposing defenses to focus resources on him, opening up opportunities for his teammates to score. DC’s scheme also sees considerable amount of attacking movement from its fullback, so expect Joseph Mora and Leonardo Jara to see some offensive returns as well this season.
Yamil Asad, Darren Mattocks, Kofi Opare, Taylor Kemp, and David Ousted are no longer with the club in 2019. Also making an exit is Nick DeLeon, who is now with TFC and will not get a chance at redeeming himself in front of DC supporters after his botched PK to end United’s season.
In their place we’ve got winger Lucas Rodriguez from Estudiantes and fullback Leonardo Jara from Boca Juniors, both of whom are expected to slot in the Starting XI from the get-go this year. Quincy Amarikwa, Chris Seitz and Chris McCann will also add some depth, along with various homegrown and SuperDraft signings.
Fortunately for managers looking for DC United coverage in their fantasy lineups this season, they have very few question marks when it comes to their Starting XI. That being said, Ben Olsen has a considerable amount of depth available to him, so keep an eye out for injuries and rotation as the season goes on, as the DC bench could be a source of fantasy value as the season goes on.
Wayne Rooney (11.0m) and Lucho Acosta (10.5m) were two of the strongest fantasy performers in the second half of 2018, and their initial prices reflect expectations coming in to this season. Both are projected as top-tier players at their positions, and should be in managers thoughts consistently throughout the season (although Rooney presents a bit of a rotation risk given his age and the abundance of midweek matches in 2019).
Wingers Lucas Rodriguez (9.0m) and Paul Arriola (8.5m) come in at a fairly high price considering their boom-or-bust role in Ben Olsen’s scheme, although if Rodriguez gets off to a hot start he could very quickly become a value pick for a few weeks until his price matches his production. Further back in the midfield we have defensive-BPS machine Russell Canouse (7.5m) and his partner Junior Moreno (6.0m). Canouse is a solid high-floor player considering his role as the primary ball-winning destroyer in the defensive midfield, but 7.5m might be a bit tough to fit in the budget on certain weeks.
Steve Birnbaum (6.0m) leads a back line that struggled a bit at times last season with injuries, but if they can remain healthy they could see a fair amount of fantasy production this season. Leonardo Jara (6.0m) is the early candidate to produce the most attacking returns along the back line, while the price tag on Joseph Mora (5.0m) provides an intriguing switcheroo punting option for owners willing to take a shot on a DC clean sheet on the cheap. Frederic Brillant (5.5m) had a rough start to the season and actually lost his starting role for a bit until injury gave him the opportunity to reclaim it – we expect him to retain his spot in the XI if he plays like he did in the second half of 2018 as opposed to the first.
Not much to say about Bill Hamid (6.0m) – he’s a DC legend and has been one of the top MLS goalkeepers for years.
Contending For Minutes
Quincy Amarikwa (TBD) has finally signed for DC and will provide much-needed depth for Rooney and the DC attack. In addition to rotational spot starts, we expect him to see significant minutes off the bench as a sub.
Ulises Segura (6.5m) and Zoltan Stieber (7.0m) battled for minutes last season and put in several quality shifts when the club were climbing the table. Steiber will likely spend the brunt of his minutes in the attacking midfield, whereas Segura is able to feature both on the wing as well as further back in the midfield.