Depth in central defense a far cry from early season
There was a time this season when D.C. United couldn’t finda central back. Two weeks afterDejan Jakovic injured an ankle in mid-April, Emiliano Dudar pulled hishamstring against Houston. DanielWoolard and Robbie Russell each took turns in a central role, but if there wasa weak spot on Ben Olsen’s roster, it was undeniably in the middle of defense.
Three months later and the exact opposite is true. Dudar and Jakovic have returned tohealth – and form – joining Brandon McDonald to give D.C. one of the best centralback trios in all of MLS.
“I think you have three center backs that would be startingon any team in the league,” said McDonald, who has paced the group with 20starts and 1800 minutes played. “You can see it at practice, it is feisty. It comes down to each of us individually putting it in intraining and letting the coaches decide on who they want to put in.”
Of late, that decision has become particularly difficult forOlsen. Jakovic and McDonald pairedtogether from the end of May through July. But after consecutive league losses, and with Dudar healthy,Olsen inserted the Argentine into the starting lineup against Paris St.Germain.
A week later – when United returned to league play againstColumbus – it was again Dudar paired opposite McDonald.
“The competition is there, but it’s healthy,” said Dudar ina Spanish-language interview on Wednesday. “We are always trying to get the best out of each other inpractice. There are three goodplayers, so it’s not easy to get a starting job and hold it. You have to prove it every day.”
After positive performances against both the Crew and PSG, Dudar has significantlyhelped his case for more time. While his height – at 6-foot-4 Dudar is D.C.’s tallest field player – certainlyserves as an asset, another of the 30-year-old’s attributes is making an evenbigger impact for the Black-and-Red.
“He can hit a 60-yard ball on a rope wherever you want,”McDonald added. “For us to havethat back there, it really keeps defenses honest.”
With a packed late-August schedule looming, the dailycompetition for minutes only figures to increase. But even for those closest to it, the three-horse race is stilltoo close to call.
“I think it keeps them hungry,” said right back Chris Korb. “Noone can really slack, even in practice. Whoever is best that week or that game is going to play."