MLS First Kick Countdown: 23 days - Will Perry Kitchen make the leap to elite in 2013?

Ned Dishman

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: U.S. youth international defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen.

We knew he had the potential to be something special when D.C. United drafted him third overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. We knew his ceiling was really high when the Black-and-Red moved him to his favored defensive midfield position at the end of his rookie campaign. Now, going into his third professional season, Perry Kitchen could be on the verge of something big. In his sophomore season, Kitchen cemented his place in the lineup, playing and starting 32 games and logging 2804, second-most behind only Brandon McDonald.

His place in the center of the park locked down for the foreseeable future, how do we think the Indianapolis native will fare in 2013? Specifically, will this be the year that he takes the next step in his development and establishes his place among the elite d-mids of MLS? The list currently includes the likes of Osvaldo Alonso and Kyle Beckerman, as well as more two-way midfielders like Juninho. Is there room for Kitchen?

If his growth continues on the same trajectory, I think there's definitely a chance. Kitchen's ability to retain possession under pressure has always been good, and last year saw him start to figure out how to quickly keep the ball moving to quickly cycle possession into the attack. Thus far this preseason, we know that he's come into camp very strong - 101 pushups strong - and isn't put off by subfreezing temperatures, so the dedication to improve (or at least a very high Badass Quotient) looks to be there, too. ESPN recognizes Kitchen's ability, too, rating him the third-best U.S. plalyer under 21. So, what say you? Let us know in the comments.

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