With their 2-0 defeat of the Charleston Battery on Saturday night, DC United captured their first ever Carolina Challenge Cup championship, and they hope that it will not be the only piece of silverware they earn in the 2010 season. If you believe that history is a strong predictor of the future, then this is a good sign, because 5 of the last 6 winners of this annual preseason tournament have gone on to win either the MLS Cup or the Supporters' Shield.
This win against the USL-2 Battery is significant in that it was another demonstration of United dominating their opponents when playing something close to their starting 11. Both DC goals came in the first half prior to the use of any substitutes. And yes, both goals were scored by the legendary Jaime Moreno, who now has 6 goals in our last 4 matches.
Our first half lineup was very similar to what I imagine our starting lineup will be in the season opener, other than the inclusion of our two teenagers (Bill Hamid starting in place of Troy Perkins, and Andy Najar starting in place of the two right backs involved in the CBA discussion - Bryan Namoff and Devon McTavish).
But rather than spending much time breaking down the results of this match, let's take a look at five of the questions remaining for DC United ahead of next week's season opener.
1. Who will our starting forwards be? When United was toiling away in early preseason matchups in Bradenton, the smart money would have been on Chris Pontius and Danny Allsopp starting, with Jaime Moreno coming on as a substitute. But with Moreno's outstanding recent results, there's no way you could relegate him to the bench. I think we're most likely to see Pontius and Moreno starting most games early in the year, with Allsopp coming on as a sub for Moreno late in each match.
2. What will our midfield look like? We've seen Santino Quaranta starting in an advanced central midfield role in several games now, but most fans don't believe that this is his best position. And with neither Khumalo or Barklage fully stepping up to claim the starting right midfield slot, pressure may mount for Curt Onalfo to move Quaranta back to his comfort zone. But then who will start in the middle? With Danny Szetela's departure, there aren't too many other options remaining. Might Chris Pontius get some time in the midfield, where he played well many times last year? Onalfo hasn't given him a chance there yet.
3. What's up with this kid? Andy Najar continues to earn playing time with the starters, and according to a trusted source, he hasn't looked out of place with them. Is the team seriously considering signing this teenager to a contract? My gut still tells me that United will sign Najar to a "Homegrown player" type contract, where he will be ineligible to play with the team in 2010, but will lock him up for the future. This will allow him to finish high school locally and join United as soon as they feel he's ready. (2011? 2012?)
4. Who will earn the final developmental roster slots? The only mortal lock for these 4 slots is Lyle Adams. I'm 90% sure that Bill Hamid will take one of these slots as a roster-eligible Generation Adidas player this season, although we still need more clarification/confirmation on this. That leaves two slots remaining, and while Brandon Barklage, John DiRaimondo, and Tiyi Shipalane are all young enough to be eligible, each might be more hopeful of making the senior roster. Daniel Woolard, Jordan Graye, Sidney Rice, and Andrew Yates also remain in competition.
5. Who will earn the final senior roster slots? Chest and I think that there are 3 slots remaining in competition. One will most definitely be filled by Juan Manuel Pena if he can reach a contract agreement. The other two will be up for grabs between Barkage, DiRaimondo, and Shipalane. But one of those slots will be only temporary until Burch returns from injury (July?).
The team has less than a week to make its final roster decisions, but we might find out early this week as United returns to RFK and gets set for the opener. My guess at this point is that the final 3 senior spots will go to Pena, Barklage and Shipalane, and the 4 developmental spots to Adams, Hamid, DiRaimondo, and Graye.