Quest for depth
From the first week of the season, D.C. United were hampered with injuries. Never, it seemed, was coach Ben Olsen afforded the luxury of being able to field a consistent Starting XI, whether because of injuries to his players or guys flowing in and out of form.
This offseason, with a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League awaiting United, as well as MLS play and the U.S. Open Cup, acquiring additional depth will be more important than ever for D.C.
“I think depth will provide that competition and that edge that everybody needs to continue the team getting better,” said United Homegrown goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who recently was called up to the U.S. men’s national team. “If guys are comfortable then guys aren’t going to perform to the best of their abilities.”
The process of reforming a roster that finished with an MLS-worst three wins in 2013 but won the Open Cup already has begun as the club cut ties with veteran captain Dwayne De Rosario, among others, and team personnel are scouting in various countries.
“I think our lack of depth, whether we had injuries or not, I think that probably is the main issue,” said veteran midfielder John Thorrington, who noted that contract talks with the club have been positive. “Positionally, I think we’re looking to get better all over the field. Obviously wanting to compete in three different competitions next season, depth will be an issue.”
While depth appears to be at the fore of the players’ minds, a pure finisher has long been something for which United have been searching. Lionard Pajoy, who was acquired in a trade for Danny Cruz two seasons ago, was not the answer and is no longer with the club. Neither was Carlos Ruiz. Not Young Designated Player Rafael, either. The same held true in 2012 as Hamdi Salihi and Maicon Santos weren’t able to stick. The list goes on and finding a forward who’s consistently able to finish is a big offseason priority.
“I think scoring goals is probably the most obvious issue,” Thorrington said. “Part of that is finding a guy who can put the ball in or finding guys here who can adapt to that role. And then finding guys who can create those chances.”
Whether United works out a deal to keep forward Conor Doyle, a forward who’s on loan from Derby County and scored the first two goals of his professional career since joining D.C., is one of many offseason decisions facing the club. Doyle said his loan expires Dec. 31.
“I was happy with how I played. Obviously I would have liked to have scored a lot more goals and thought I could have scored more goals, so that’s frustrating as an individual,” Doyle said. “But I’m just hanging out here and doing what these guys do. If something gets sorted out, then it gets sorted out.”