DC United shot up the Eastern Conference table last season after a series of midseason acquisitions and injury returnees helped the club maximize a home-packed back half of the schedule. This offseason, General Manager Dave Kasper is hoping to take advantage of his Rooney Window by creating a high-powered attack and leaning on experience in back. Lucas Rodriguez's arrival means DC can now play with three uber-talented young Argentinians behind Rooney or deploy the bustling Paul Arriola on either wing. Also Ulises Segura and Zoltan Stieber are on board as depth pieces, so this is an offensive unit that has skill and depth (with the gigantic caveat that Rooney is irreplaceable).
Behind the front line, Russell Canouse and Junior Moreno will fend off young stud Chris Durkin as he pushes for more minutes in midfield. Protecting the backline with a strong double-pivot will be crucial for DC since they will likely utilize experienced but not particularly mobile center backs. Canouse is a ball hound that will cover the width of the pitch and Moreno can pick positions based on his partners movements. Durkin has huge upside and will have every opportunity to cement a spot if either starter misses time.
New faces offer upgrades at the outside back spots for United. Leonardo Jara arrives from Estudiantes, and the right back is hitting peak age as he makes the move to MLS. If Jara can bring a two-way game to the right flank, United will be extremely dangerous up that side given how well Rooney and Acosta can drop out of the center to combine. Expect the black and red to create numbers advantages in wide areas and try to create space in the center in the final third. That's... a really good plan.
At left back, veteran Chris McCann should provide stability and allow Olsen to lean less heavily on Joseph Mora. If McCann and Frederic Brilliant, both on the wrong side of 30, can stay healthy throughout the season, DC should have a solid-if-unspectacular defense that can see them through matches as the offense churns through opponents at the other end.
In goal, Bill Hamid will park between the pipes and try to stay healthy for a full season. If he does, DC have all the tools to be one of the stronger teams in the Eastern Conference.
That run through DC's offseason moves and depth points to a team with a lot of potential to do damage in the East this year. It also suggests that, in their desire to open the center for runners, United will offer an interesting opponent for a Union side that is looking to remain a compact, center-protecting unit across the pitch.
The Union and DC United take the field at 7 p.m. ET in Clearwater, Florida at the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex. Tickets will be $10 at the door and the match will be livestreamed at PhiladelphiaUnion.com.
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