You've all heard from the normal sources (and in a blurb earlier from Shatz, who apparently moves faster than I do in the morning) that DC has waived Danny Szetela. The midfielder, dogged by rumors of poor training habits and a bad attitude, struggled to escape Tom Soehn's doghouse last year, and was injured early in this year's training camp.
While it wasn't looking like Szetela was going to be a starter, this news still came as something of a surprise. It's been established that United has plenty of cap room, so this is definitely not a salary dump to make room for Juan Manuel Peña. While most United fans were not high on Szetela's performances in a DC jersey, the move to cut him still came out of the blue, especially in light of the lack of true central midfielders on the roster.
So, what's going on here? Will there be consequences for this move? Find out below...
Before we proceed, I think it's important to settle what Szetela was, and what he wasn't.
We can thank Tom Soehn for the confusion, since Soehn seemed entirely happy with playing Szetela badly out of position. Most of Szetela's performances in DC came at right midfield, whether in the 442 or 3412; he was not cut out for either one. Wide players, at the top level, have to have some speed and some willingness to run at defenders. If going 1v1 isn't your thing, you probably aren't a wide player in today's game.
Szetela's approach to attacking involves smart movement, short passing, and combination play. At his best, he's a box-to-box player who doesn't open defenses on his own. Rather, he functions as part of a unit; sometimes he's the man delivering the killer ball, sometimes he's the one making the run onto that pass, and sometimes he's just one more person who got a touch before the defense was truly opened. Szetela, in a 442, would be the more attacking of a central partnership, but calling him a playmaker would be a stretch.
Does this sound like the kind of player Onalfo's system calls for to you? It certainly does to me, which is why I was saying he would end up as a starter. He's got the ability, he fits the profile, and the system is crying out for a natural fit in that position. Soehn used Szetela centrally only a few times, and only once when he was fit and in any kind of rhythm with his teammates. That game, our CCL match at Marathon, saw Szetela start very well in the opening 20 minutes. However, Devon McTavish was struggling defensively on at right midfield in the 3412 we sent out, and he was also not contributing to the attack whatsoever. Soehn's choices were to either burn a sub very early (an especially upsetting option, given the fact that the players on the bench were being rested due to the clogged fixture list) or find a way to hide McTavish until halftime, and then straighten him out with some wise words/yelling/whatever. Soehn chose the latter, moving McTavish into a central role (leaving us with a very conservative trio in the middle) and sending Szetela to the right.
What happened was a perfect illustration of Szetela's shortcomings on the wing. Szetela knew he didn't have the speed to get into the attack, so he abandoned getting forward with any ambition in favor of slowing down Marathon's raids down that flank. He actually did a passable job in that respect, but the lack of attacking contribution meant that he essentially disappeared from the game. Afterward, most fans were critical of him for not making an impact. My thoughts were that, while Soehn's move made perfect sense, it did pretty much kill any hopes Szetela had of being a positive on offense. Soon thereafter, Szetela found himself in the doghouse, and we all know how things went from there.
In any case, he's gone now and we still have a roster to stock. It seems pretty safe at this point to assume that, between the empty spot opened by Szetela's departure and Marc Burch being placed on the injured reserve (which hasn't formally happened yet, but obviously will soon enough), there are 2 senior spots to fill. The easy money to fill those spots would be Peña and Barklage.
If those moves both end up happening, then we have some clear-cut battles for one roster spot. Lyle Adams, Lawson Vaughn, and Daniel Woolard (who turns 26 in May) would all be after one senior spot. Adams has seen time on both sides of the back four, and Goff is projecting him as a guy that makes the squad, so it would appear that he has the inside track over Vaughn and Woolard to supplement our outside back depth. Elsewhere, DiRaimondo's standing on the squad is given a boost by Szetela's departure since we now have a very thin group of natural central midfielders (defensive or attacking). My guess is that, to make room for DiRaimondo, Ty Shipalane will be offered a developmental spot while he's still eligible. If he takes it, great; if not, no big deal. He wasn't going to see much time anyway.
The developmental roster, if you're following the conversation here, is something of a mess. Even us obsessives are trying to figure out what's happening with Bill Hamid. In any case, I'll hold off on guessing who will be on the developmental roster until that whole thing is sorted out. I will say that I think you can safely pencil Barry Rice in at this point.