In a move that has seemed highly likely since early in the preseason, D.C. United officially announced the signing of Andrew Dykstra. This will come as no surprise to internet-addicted United fans, who likely saw Dykstra's blog post from a week ago saying that he had signed.
Northern Virginia native Dykstra spent last season with the Charleston Battery, where he was named the club's MVP for 2011 (as well as newcomer of the year). Dykstra's previous pro experience was with the Chicago Fire, with whom he earned a roster spot in the 2009 preseason after being undrafted out of Virginia Commonwealth. In 2010, Dykstra managed 17 starts in MLS before the emergence of Sean Johnson as the side's new starting GK.
Dykstra's acquisition has seemed like a foregone conclusion for weeks now. Unlike the revolving door of strikers on trial (remember Alanzo Adlam? His trial only ended like 4 weeks ago!), Dykstra hasn't had any competitors since Josh Lambo was cut from camp very early in the preseason. The 26 year old has real professional experience under his belt, and as a local is excited to sign for his hometown team. Add in what is intimidating size for a keeper (6'4", 195 lbs), and it's hard to find any real issues with this move.
Dykstra will probably open the season as the team's #3 keeper behind Bill Hamid and Joe Willis. Given Hamid's status as a slight favorite to become the heir apparent to Tim Howard with the national team and Willis's steady showings in 2011 and PK saves this preseason, it won't be easy for Dykstra to get himself onto the field. However, with Hamid pretty much a lock to miss time with the Olympic team and possibly in World Cup qualifying - I think Nick Rimando and Brad Guzan will get the call-ups for competitive matches at this point, but nothing is assured - United needs more than one good option down the bench. I doubt Pat Onstad is interested in another stint as our emergency starter.
In his spell with the Fire, Dykstra's main issues were with decision-making and confidence. He isn't a particularly agile keeper, but then neither was his new position coach Onstad. The decision-making issues most likely stemmed from confidence, which can take a hit when your coach throws you to the wolves. Dykstra's ascension to Chicago's starting job came under bizarre circumstances, with former Fire coach Carlos De Los Cobos opting to release quality veteran Jon Busch less than a week before the 2010 MLS season started. De Los Cobos named Dykstra his starter amidst rumors of El Salvador's #1 Miguel Montes being a Fire target.
A confident and more seasoned Dykstra should give United a reasonable replacement for Steve Cronin at the bare minimum. Onstad will probably see a bit of himself in Dykstra, and should be able to give our new GK a clear example of how to improve his game in terms of decision-making and anticipation.
It's also worth noting that there are some MLS teams out there - Chivas USA, the Houston Dynamo, and ironically enough the Chicago Fire all jump to mind - that arguably don't have a back-up that's as good as Dykstra, much less having him as their third-stringer on opening day. That alone is a positive move and an indicator that United's push for depth on all fronts has been a success up to this point.