D.C. United underwent a massive transformation this offseason, with nearly half the roster turning over. It's unsurprising that a team coming off one of the worst seasons in league history has decided to make such dramatic changes, but there are still lingering questions about how all of the new talent will fit in.
While it's hard to nail down Ben Olsen's preferred starting XI before the Black and Red play a competitive game, it's extremely likely that more than half of the players selected to start against the Columbus Crew in the season opener will be players that joined the club this offseason. It's tough to tell exactly how the new players are picking up Olsen's ideas until they've played a few Major League Soccer games, but a couple of players who joined during the tough 2013 campaign are feeling good about the direction of the team.
Jared Jeffrey was confident about everything coming together. "They have a similar philosophy [to Olsen], I think they'll adapt, and we'll be better than last year," he said about the team's newcomers. Jeffrey also talked about preseason preparation and how the team balanced trying new things with getting ready for Columbus. "We looked at a lot the first couple weeks, they were really experimenting with formations," said Jeffrey. "The last couple weeks we've been honing in on what we want to do."
The team is also realistic about needing some time to reach their full potential, and they're not going to completely overhaul the system. "It's a bit different with the new personnel coming in, but the mentality and the focus on what we do is all the same," said Conor Doyle. "It's just a matter of making sure we blend together and make it work all season."
Doyle and Jeffrey also talked about the attitude around the locker room regarding the new players and had nothing but positive things to say.
"I think it's gone as smoothly as possible," said Doyle, who emphasized how well the new players are getting along with the players who remain from last year's team. "All the guys coming in have been great guys, they fit in great and they're all easy to get along with. They're all outgoing people, no one's been shy and kept to themselves. We've come together as a team."
Jeffrey echoed similar sentiments. "We're not the finished product yet, but everyone wants to be here and that's a big thing," he said when asked about how integrating the new players has gone. "Everyone's really exited to come in and try to bond because we want to do something special here this year."
There's plenty of evidence at RFK Stadium that Doyle and Jeffrey aren't just paying lip-service to the idea that United needs to come together as a team. Players who haven't played together previously look comfortable with each other, are hanging out after training and aren't shy about breaking into locker room karaoke.
Winning consistently will temporarily bring a broken locker room together, while losing as frequently as DC did last season could break even the tightest of groups, but it's clear that United has a renewed positive attitude. On Saturday, everyone will get to see if their high spirits translate to games.