As the 2013 MLS season approaches, we're counting down the days to March 2 and running the proverbial rule over each player on D.C. United's roster. Today's subject: Brazilian 21-year-old and Fluminese loanee to United Raphael Augusto.
Brazilian Raphael Augusto joined D.C. United last fall and has only played 50 minutes for the Black-and-Red. Every one of those minutes came in last season's Eastern Conference final first leg in Houston, when he came on for an injured Marcelo Saragosa late in the first half. He immediately moved into a more attacking role than his compatriot and in less than 10 minutes suffered what should have been ruled a red card foul from Andre Hainault in what was very nearly a 1v1 situation with Houston keeper Tally Hall.
That, so far, is our only real glimpse into the talent held by the 21-year-old Fluminese product, whose short-term loan to the Black-and-Red was extended by a year this offseason. With 12 days to go until D.C. United start their season - appropriately enough at the scene of the crime described above, Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium - today we look at our no. 12 (the one on the field, not the many in the stands) and ask what his position should be once he sees more playing time.
And I think we should expect more playing time for Augusto this year than we saw last year. At the season ticket holder Q&A, Ben Olsen expressed some regret for not playing the kid earlier in the year, which makes me think he'll look for opportunities to put Augusto on the field this season. Olsen also explained that Augusto is a bit of a tweener, he's not a real #10 or withdrawn forward, but as a Brazilian box-to-box midfielder his defending isn't as solid as Olsen would like it to be, either. Nevertheless, Benny hinted that Augusto could be too talented to keep him off the field again this year.
So, where will he play? In D.C. United's current 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 system, there are really two potential answers. He could play in DeRo's attacking midfield/withdrawn forward role, either coming on as a second-half substitute or starting when DeRo is serving international duty or injured or just needs a rest. DeRo's a bit of a tweener himself, driving forward from deep positions or dropping off the front line when he starts higher. Augusto could do a lot worse than emulating one of MLS' all-time greats.
The other option is deeper in midfield, where he could replace Marcelo Saragosa alongside Perry Kitchen, as he did that afternoon in Houston last November. He doesn't provide the grit that his fellow Brazilian does, but he undoubtedly gives us more going forward. We could see him slot in here (or possibly as a "link midfielder" in a switch to a more forward-leaning 4-1-4-1/4-3-3) as a late-game sub when we're chasing a game. Or, if the defense proves sturdy enough, we could see him in this role as a starter in some games.
Really, it's a question only time (and Ben Olsen) can answer. But that's never stopped us from debating before, so let us know your thoughts in the comments.