The back line of United really improved this season, and it appears likely that the group will stay together next season as well.
D.C. United went a long way towards further securing the back line today by extending the contract of veteran center back Dejan Jakovic. The 27-year old Canadian enjoyed the best season of his MLS career and also scored his first league goal. Jakovic played a huge role in keeping United's opponents off the board during the stretch run of the season, really coming into his own as one of the top center backs in MLS. Now he'll be paid like one. Jakovic made a base salary of $208,000 in 2012, and while terms of his new contract weren't immediately disclosed, it is likely to include at least a slight raise.
United couldn't have made the playoffs without Jakovic, so having him under contract is an important move for the club. But the bigger news might have actually been the quote from United General Manager Dave Kasper that was included in the team's press release announcing the move.
"We are thrilled to have secured his future at our club," Kasper said. "It is an important objective of ours to keep our back line intact moving into 2013, and this signing is a big step in that direction."
Why is this important? What does this mean? Let's break it down.
First, it might hint that Emiliano Dudar is on his way out, which wouldn't really be seen as a surprise anyway. Dudar started only 10 goals this season and found himself behind both Jakovic and Brandon McDonald on United's depth chart at center back. And rightfully so, as both young Americans were playing great. The problem with Dudar though is that he makes as much as them. It doesn't make much sense for one team to carry three center backs with salaries over $200,000 on the roster, especially not when reliable backups can be had for far cheaper. Especially not when Ethan White and Conor Shanosky should both be ready to take the step forward and compete for playing time in that spot next season.
Next, this has to be seen as good news for guy like Chris Korb. After making only $44,100 this season, Korb's new contract should be next. If Kasper wants to keep the back line together, then he surely wants to keep Korb. I'd expect Korb to be back next year, competing with Daniel Woolard for the starting left back job. And the loser of that battle will still see plenty of playing time as the primary relief for both starting outside backs.
But finally, and perhaps most importantly, it means that we shouldn't be expecting any major acquisitions along the back line. So long as Andy Najar and McDonald remain with the team rather than pursuing opportunities overseas, the back line won't feature many changes, although United might opt to add some defensive depth through free agency or the draft.
What we had this year will be the largely same that we have next year. And for the first time in a long time, I'm actually okay with that.