Whether new D.C. United signing Emiliano Dudar emerges as a starter or not, he should ensure the club has real depth at center back for the first time in years. (photo courtesy of D.C. United)
After an almost silent offseason, D.C. United has been adding players at a fairly reliable rate since the various MLS drafts were completed. That trend continued today, as United officially announced the signing of Emiliano Dudar. Dudar, who had been rumored to be a DC target for weeks, is a 30 year old Argentine center back with experience at big clubs in Argentina, Brazil, and Switzerland, and comes to United from Swiss side Young Boys BSC.
What jumps out immediately about Dudar is his size: At 6'4" and 198 lbs, he is immediately among the biggest players in MLS. For a United side that has often been noted as a smaller team physically, a player like Dudar fits in with what appears to be an offseason strategy to become bigger and stronger. Dudar is the third player standing 6' tall or higher to join United since the 2011 season ended (along with Robbie Russell and Maicon Santos).
Dudar's time with Young Boys had some ups and downs. The ups include winning the 2009-2010 Swiss Defender of the Year award in his first season with the club, as well as extensive experience in the Europa League. On the down side, Dudar suffered a severe concussion that required being placed in a medically-induced coma for a short while.
According to Steve Goff, United put Dudar through a thorough series of tests before signing him. Given the club's history with concussed players, you'd have to imagine that they wouldn't have signed Dudar unless he got an all-clear on the medical side.
Unlike numerous past seasons during the Dave Kasper era, where United usually carried just three true center backs and would always find themselves short at some point due to injuries and suspensions, the club had made it a priority to have four guys capable of starting at center back in MLS. Bringing Dudar aboard means, at the very least, that guys like Russell or Perry Kitchen won't be dragged out of position the first time we have an injury or red card at the position.
This is no small deal when you consider that Dejan Jakovic has had hamstring troubles throughout his United career; that Brandon McDonald has also picked up injuries here and there during his MLS career; and that Ethan White is currently not able to train as he recovers from an offseason PCL tear. We don't have the most durable group of center backs, in other words, so adding a fourth was a smart move (provided, of course, that he can actually play at a good enough level).
Dudar, if he's any kind of real professional, will be coming in looking to fight his way into a starting job. While most would agree that McDonald is our strongest center back, Dudar might not automatically be trying to push Jakovic out of the other starting role. If Dudar is not particularly fast or quick, it might be problematic to start him alongside McDonald as opposed to pairing him with Jakovic, who is one of the faster center backs in MLS. While certain teams won't make it much of a problem - Houston using two target men, for example, or Chivas playing a forward pairing with a combined age of nearly 70 - most clubs in this league will punish a lack of speed in the back. It will be very interesting to see what we can find out in the preseason as far as what pairing emerges as the best overall.
Adding Dudar also means Ben Olsen can consider using McDonald in a defensive midfield role. It's not the ideal position for him, but he has more experience there than Stephen King and has done better there in the past than Kurt Morsink ever has. With Kitchen's likely Olympic involvement - he's not in the current camp because a case of turf toe prevented him from training at 100% until this week, but he'll almost certainly get called in for the qualifying tournament - this is a significant positive. We may see McDonald in that role as early as the first game of the season, depending on how flexible Caleb Porter is with his Olympic qualifying call-ups.
Both United's official announcement and Goff's piece on the signing note Dudar's leadership qualities. This goes with another trend in the club's offseason moves, as Russell was also noted as a leader during his time with Real Salt Lake. On a team that features plenty of young regulars, that kind of quality is always going to help.