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D.C. United Preview: Defender Competition

Marc Burch looks to have lost his starting job. Does he deserve better?
Marc Burch looks to have lost his starting job. Does he deserve better?

One of the trademarks for D.C. United this season, and also one of the biggest differences from last season, is that we now have competition at virtually every position. Establishing that competition was one of Ben Olsen's goals going into this year, and I think he's done it.

We'll be previewing each line heading into the season over the next few days. Starting tonight with the defense.

The left back position in particular has featured a competition between Marc Burch and Daniel Woolard this season. Its a competition that the former Carolina Railhawk Woolard seems to have won. And even though we've all been hoping for an upgrade at this position for several years now (since Petke? Agoos?), I'm left wondering if this is really the best decision.

Burch is a known quantity. And he's come a long way since first being converted to a left back under Tom Soehn. He can hit an excellent cross when given space, he's got a wicked driven shot, and he's improved his decision making.

Woolard is more difficult to judge because we haven't seen enough of him. He's faster than Burch. That's helpful. Particularly against certain teams who utilize speed on the wings (our first two opponents with Robbie Rogers and Nyassi/Mansally come to mind).

I haven't been watching the training sessions, so I don't claim to know more about these two guys than Olsen does, but from what I have seen this preseason, the choice of Woolard over Burch doesn't seem all that clear. In United's victory over the Chicago Fire, Burch consistently served in threatening crosses, while doing his part to help preserve the shutout. But in the 2-2- tie with Toronto FC, Woolard appeared to be partially responsible for TFC's first goal, allowing Dwayne De Rosario to cross the ball from the right wing into the box, which led to a foul and penalty shot call.

That's not the only position where there could be competition this year. It just seems to be the only position where there's competition at the moment. Perry Kitchen and Dejan Jakovic have apparently locked up the center back positions, despite some promising preseason performances from Rodrigo Brasesco. Not to worry though, the Uruguayan is sure to still get plenty of time as the other two are involved in international competitions.

But Brasesco and Burch sitting on the bench makes me wonder if our best four defenders will be starting on Saturday.