Branko Boskovic is finally playing to his potential. But is it too late for the most polarizing player on the D.C. United roster?
I'm starting to believe that Branko Boskovic's sole reason for life on this planet is to confuse us into indecision. Less than a week ago, it was a forgone conclusion that he would be heading back to Europe as soon as early July. With three partial MLS seasons on his resume, Boskovic had no goals and no assists, right up until his free kick assist to Dwayne De Rosario in the first minute of United's win over Toronto FC on Saturday. Now, rather than debating how the team would be best served to spend Boskovic's $525,000 annual salary that would soon be freed up, we're wondering instead if perhaps there's something different we can do with that money. Perhaps that money would be best allocated towards renewing the Montenegran midfielder's contract.
It's been over a year since the predecessor to this headline. At that time, we were wondering why Ben Olsen was continually leaving Boskovic out of the lineup. Earlier this season, we didn't have to wonder anymore. He was playing timid. He was ceding possession too often for a player of his supposed caliber, and unable to create chances for his teammates. During his limited time on the field early in the 2012 season, Boskovic made very little impact.
As his playing time increased, that quickly changed. We could argue with stats that Boskovic was helping the team win, but we don't even have to. In both of his starts last week, Boskovic gave United something the team hasn't gotten from other players this year, and I'm not just talking about his set pieces. Boskovic's positioning and vision was as originally advertised and expected, giving De Rosario the ability to roam freely around the attacking third. That's where DeRo is at his best. That's where he's most productive.
If one of Boskovic's assets is that he allows DeRo to be DeRo, his contract might be a bargain.
The team has just four more matches with Boskovic inked to his current contract - Saturday's visit from the New England Revolution, and then three weeks off before matches against the Philadelphia Union, New York Red Bulls, and Montreal Impact the last three weekends in June. That's a very limited amount of time for Boskovic to solidify his spot. Or lose it.
The question, of course, won't just come down to Boskovic's work on the field though. It will come down to money. It always does, right?
As fans though, should we really be too concerned with money? Why should we care whether D.C. United offers Boskovic a straight renewal of the $525,000 contract or if the team refuses to offer more than $200,000?
Let's focus instead on whether he's a productive player. Whether he's worthy of a roster spot. Whether he's fulfilled a need that hasn't been filled since Marcelo Gallardo returned to Argentina with the flu or some shit. Boskovic is all those things, and more.
Attacking midfielders don't grow on trees. If you've been a United fan for more than a few months, surely you realize that. Allowing Boskovic to leave would create a significant hole in our roster - a hole only filled by moving De Rosario farther from goal or moving Nick DeLeon out of his preferred position. Waving around half a million dollars isn't going to lure the next Fredy Montero. The next Graham Zusi isn't just sitting out there waiting to be plucked.
We've seen this team fail miserably at signing international players. Despite his low statistical results, Boskovic is no such failure. Clearly he has talent. Clearly he's a winner.
We've also said before that the best chance of D.C. United winning a trophy this season involves Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi living up to their potential, and DeRo being DeRo. At least for this week, all three of those things are true. So why remove one of those pieces? Gambling on Boskovic's form remaining at its current level is worth the risk. Its worth forgoing the extra cash that we'd have to spend on some imaginary need for additional central defensive depth.
Saying goodbye to Boskovic creates a series of difficult questions. Re-signing him answers them. What do we have to lose?