Here are the team's acquisitions since the end of the 2007 season, in order from most important to least:
1. I could dedicate an entire post to the trials and tribulations of Marcelo Gallardo, but that's already been done. Specifically here though, we should be discussing what Gallardo adds to United that they didn't have last year. In that regard, he is a playmaker with creativity that has not been seen here since the retirement of El Diablo. But there are doubts about whether or not that creativity is really what the team needed to add. Because with Christian Gomez last year, the team may not have been as creative, but they were certainly more successful. Before the season started, I was insistent that Gallardo was brought to DC because he gave us a better chance in international competitions than Gomez. So how's that going for us? Perhaps it's difficult to truly grade Gallardo's impact since he's been injured for two out of the three tournaments we've played in this year, but if he can guide us to an MLS Cup, or better yet a Champions League title in the months to come, all will be forgiven.
2. United completely rehauled the defense in the offseason with the acquisition of Los Gonzalos. So far, it has been Gonzalo Martinez who has appeared to be the most consistent new addition to the squad this year. He has quickly become one of the best left backs in the MLS, and despite calls for him to play centrally as he did at the start of the year, the left is where he is likely to stay. Gonzalo Peralta had some good games and some bad before going down to injury, and in that regard the early comparisons to Facundo Erpen seem appropriate. He won't have to fight very hard to regain his starting job in central defense from Burch when he returns to the field. But with the new look to United's backline, even though they SHOULD be better than the backline we had last year, why can we still not earn a clean sheet? The team had 8 last year.
3. Maybe the biggest surprise this year has come from the return of Santino Quaranta. With Olsen out, Quaranta has been a revelation (or am I going too far with that word?) on the right wing. He added some attacking flare opposite Fred that was an important part of the team's winning streak prior to his most recent injury before Open Cup. But has his 23-year-old body suffered too many injuries in his career for United to count on him long term? A return to health of Peralta and Mediate might push McTavish ahead of Tino on the depth chart at right wing.
4. Francis Doe has emerged of late as a talented attacking option next to Emilio. I had my doubts about him early on, but with two goals in the Superliga, Doe seems to have learned how to adjust to his new team quite nicely. And with Gallardo injured, Doe's continued production at forward will allow the team to move Moreno into the CAM role without losing too much.
5. Three rookies in Ryan Cordeiro, Dan Stratford, and Pat Carroll have been able to earn quality minutes with the first team this season. I wasn't the only one who criticized the team for drafting Cordeiro over other proven midfielders like Stephen King, but he instantly grabbed my eye in the reserve division, and looked pretty good against Houston in the Superliga finale. Stratford was the first rookie to earn first team minutes, and despite being pulled before half time in that game, the coaching staff certainly sees him as having a lot of potential. Strats picked a poor time to get injured though, because without Gallardo, I think a healthy Stratford will move above Dyachenko on the depth chart very shortly. The youngest Carroll has looked pretty good in Open Cup and Superliga appearances lately, but will likely lose playing time once Peralta, Mediate, and his brother Jeff return from injuries.
6. Three more rookies in Dane Murphy, Jeremy Barlow, and James Thorpe have yet to earn any first team apperances. Murphy has been on the 18-man gameday roster a couple of times, and I think he even got some action in the Rochester match. He's tall and a bit versatile. He seems to play mostly a central midfielder, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Soehn try to convert him into a defender. I saw Barlow score a goal in the opening Reserve Division match this year, but it doesn't seem like the club rates him too highly. He's got a good work rate, but will have to fight to keep his roster spot this offseason. I haven't seen Thorpe play yet, but at least he gave us the depth needed to be able to cut Carvallo from the roster.
7. I have my doubts about the acquisition of Joe Vide. I mean he was cut by San Jose of all places! I don't mind giving Vide a shot, since he was good enough to earn quite a few starts for the Red Bulls last year (yeah, but so could some of the women on my wife's team). But I feel like it might have been too much to give Vide a precious senior roster spot.
8. Let's not waste too much time by talking about these guys who aren't on the team anymore: Franco Niell, Jose Carvallo, and Jeff Curtin. Niell was not horrible in a United uniform, that is the few times that he was standing up (how could you tell?). But his salary was just too much for the team to keep around. I still feel like Frank O'Neal's biggest claim to fame should be this picture. Or this one. Carvallo stunk, we'll just leave it at that. It was unfortunate to lose Curtin due to injury, because he certainly could have been getting some minutes ahead of Burch in central defense if was still with the team.
So with all of those acquisitions, DC United should be a better team than last year. Right? Not so fast. Check back in the next few days for a look at all the players that United has lost.