Assessing The 2012 D.C. United Trialists, Round 1

Ryan Richter getting kicked in the head by Cristiano Ronaldo

The 2012 D.C. United training camp kicked off yesterday with the team’s first practice session in windy and cold Arlington, VA. Besides newly signed forward Maicon Santos, there were several new faces on the field as Ben Olsen and Co. brought in a smattering of trialists for the first D.C. leg of camp. This list is expected to be whittled down prior to the team’s arrival in Florida next week, but for now, the trialists are:

Goalkeepers: Andrew Dykstra, Carl Goody, Will Swaim
Defenders: Jed Zayner
Midfielders: Seth C’deBaca, Mike da Fonte, Ryan Richter
Forwards: Yoni Berhanu, Levi Houapeu, Matt Oduran, Sainey Touray

It’s too early for us to make any judgments on these players as they just hooked up with the team yesterday. And if you claim to have seen more than three of these guys, and your name doesn’t end in Clark or Rockwell, you’re probably lying. But let’s take a first pass at doing a little bit of analysis about what is going on here.

A native of Woodbridge, VA, Andrew Dykstra was the starting goalkeeper for the Charleston Battery last season and finished 2011 with the lowest goals against average of any goalie in the USL-Pro Division. Prior to that, he served as Sean Johnson’s backup with the Chicago Fire, making 17 MLS appearances in two years. He’s certainly qualified to make an MLS roster, and would provide some solid competition with Joe Willis for the No. 2 goalkeeper spot. But would that be enough for him? Or would Dykstra prefer to be the unquestioned starter in a lower league over simply competing to be a backup who only makes a handful of appearances? If Dykstra doesn’t sign with United, 6’-4" Carl Goody out of William Carey University would be another big option to sit behind Willis on the depth chart after recording 11 shutouts and a 0.79 GAA in his senior season.

Mike da Fonte is probably the most intriguing name in camp. After a successful college career at Longwood University, da Fonte spent the last year chasing dreams in Portugal as a member of Rio Ave. I’d expect him to compete for a roster spot with Supplemental Draft pick Matt Kuhn to add depth behind Chris Pontius, Andy Najar, and Nick DeLeon on the wings. I’m also intrigued by Sainey Touray, a former member of the New York Red Bulls who scored eight goals in 20 matches with the Harrisburg City Islanders last year. The 21-year old Touray has seen time with the Gambian U-20 team and could join United’s long line of failed African-born attackers to come out of the Central PA powerhouse.

You might recognize the names Ryan Richter and Levi Houapeu. That’s because they each spent last season on the Philadelphia Union roster, but finished 2011 without a single appearance in a league match. I don’t take highly to signing other peoples’ castoffs, but these two will have a chance to make the team as long-shots, as will Goody, Swaim, C’deBaca, Bernahanu, and Oduran, all of whom played soccer locally at a lower level last season.

But of all the players listed as trialists, Jed Zayner might still be the one capable of making the biggest impact. Just over one year ago, he was named United’s Defender Of The Year, and now he’s fighting to make the team. If Zayner is injury-free and in-form, he’ll quickly be making our bench as the preferred backup to Robbie Russell at right back, and may even compete with Daniel Woolard to start on the left. Steve Goff revealed yesterday that Zayner has recovered from his hamstring issues of 2011, but has cartilage problems in his knee that could force him into retirement.

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