MLS First Kick 2013 Countdown: 21 days - Daniel Woolard may be the key to D.C. United's defense 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: versatile left-footed defender Daniel Woolard.

I think very few people would disagree with the statement that D.C. United were hard hit by injuries through 2012. In addition to shorter-term injuries to Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon and Emiliano Dudar, there was obviously the big injury to Dwayne De Rosario, which forced a major tactical shift in Ben Olsen's side. Luckily, another longer-term injury did not derail United's season: the concussion and subsequent complications of Daniel Woolard.

Woolard suffered his concussion in early August, and his post-concussion symptoms, combined with the team's understandable caution in reintroducing players following head injuries, kept him out of commission through the middle of the playoffs. Luckily, Chris Korb was able to fill in admirably in that left fullback spot, and Andy Najar took over the right side of the defense. But with Najar gone, Robbie Russell another year older, Chris Korb presumably moving to the right side and no proven backups for Woolard, what happens if he goes onto the shelf for an extended period again this year?

A similar problem will arise if an injury happens, not to Woolard, but to one of Dejan Jakovic or Brandon McDonald, our first choice center backs. Judging by Ben Olsen's statements, Woolard appears likely to be the first option to deputize in the center of defense should we ever lose the services of either half of McDonkovic. So who takes over left fullback?

The first option is probably Taylor Kemp, the rookie left back out of Maryland, but we could see Korb shift back to the left and Robbie Russell step in on the right. But our defense is still thin enough that an injury to Woolard and anybody else - barring new reinforcements to the roster - could set the dominoes falling, leaving United's defense in a potentially very tough spot.

So, our question for today is whether Daniel Woolard is the key man to United's defense in 2013, or is he simply a guy who's going to be first-choice, but not one whose health is vital to the Black-and-Red's success this season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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