D.C. United fans can be forgiven for struggling to remember which new guy is wearing a given number. The Black-and-Red added another young player today, signing Swiss left back Dennis Iapichino. Iapichino, at 23 years old, is a former Swiss youth international and a product of the youth system at FC Basel, one of the strongest teams in Switzerland. Iapichino, who also holds Italian citizenship, will take up the fifth of United's seven international roster slots.
Iapichino comes to United having last played for the Montreal Impact, where he was essentially a victim of the numbers game. When any Impact starting defender was injured, Marco Schallibaum's preference was to bring Iapichino in at left back, and reshuffle the remaining three starters thanks to the positional flexibility of Jeb Brovsky and Hassoun Camara.
Every team could use a solid defender off their bench, so why did Montreal let Iapichino go? The recent signing of Spanish center back Adrian Lopez Rodriguez - who at 26 has 37 first division games in two of the three best leagues on the planet - changes the equation for Schallibaum, who can now turn to a natural center back rather than moving Camara into the middle from his normal spot at right back. There are also rumors that Impact homegrown players like Karl Ouimette and Maxim Tissot - both capable of playing left back - are pushing hard for playing time as well. Long story short, Iapichino was getting squeezed from both sides.
Per Steven Goff at The Washington Post, Iapichino's $110,000 salary with the Impact was lowered so he could remain in MLS.
Where will Iapichino fit in for United? Quite frankly, the quality of defending from everyone who has played left back here in 2013 has been disappointing. Since Iapichino was only without a club for a week, he should begin pressing for the starting job in short order. It is important to note, however, that Iapichino's only appearance for Montreal since mid-June was against United on August 3rd (where he went the full 90). He may be fit to play, but it might take a game or two before he has the sharpness required to play his best soccer.
Iapichino has no glaring weaknesses, and is positionally sharper than Chris Korb or James Riley. While he may not possess the skill on the ball of Alain Rochat, Iapichino is good enough with the ball that he can provide some width and the occasional good cross. It might be best to think of him as having Riley's crossing ability - which has quietly been pretty strong of late - paired with the mental attributes of someone you can actually trust to play left back without making big mistakes.
If there is a flaw in Iapichino's game, it's a tendency to pick up yellow cards. After signing with Montreal during last year's summer window, he picked up two bookings in seven appearances. This season, in nine MLS appearances, he picked up three more cards. In terms of cards per 90 minutes, that's five - the number that gets you a one-game suspension - in about 12.8 full games. It's not that Iapichino is a dirty player, but rather that his enthusiasm for playing a physical but fair style can result in reckless decisions in terms of tackling. With United still struggling at defending set pieces, he'll have to work on his decision-making when it comes to staying on his feet instead of diving into a tackle.
For social media fans, Iapichino seems to be an enthusiastic Twitter user (you can find him at @DennisIapichino).
The signing of Iapichino makes it very unlikely that United will sign two-time trialist O'Brian Woodbine (currently Jamaica's first-choice left back) or left back/left winger Sheriff Suma (a Sierra Leone international who also had a recent trial). It also makes one wonder whether Taylor Kemp will be spending the rest of the season with the USL-Pro regular season champion Richmond Kickers, given the logjam at his preferred position.
In the coming weeks, we'll likely see Iapichino and Riley battling for one roster spot. Given Riley's higher salary and error-strewn 2013, the smart money would be on Iapichino. That said, maybe increased competition brings out the best in Riley, who should be in the prime of his career and might have a hard time finding another MLS contract if he can't stick with the team in last place.
I hope Iapichino is successful, because otherwise I will be posting a link to this video over and over again.
More from Black And Red United:
- D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact lineup and Dennis Iapinchino
- Filibuster Podcast Week 24: US Open Cup, Philadelphia Union, and Playing the Kids
- Fantasy Focus: Hat Trick Landon
- The Last Word On A Match That Doesn't Matter: D.C. United's Loss To The Philadelphia Union
- Conor Casey strikes twice as D.C. United falls 2-0