You've had reviews. You've also had resolutions. And we're sure that you are going to have previews to go with the reviews. But in the interim, there are some things we would like for you to keep an eye on. They are things of various import and consequence, but they would all seem to have some sort of impact on D.C. United's 2015 season. Here are eight that are worth exploring.
8. Stopping Father Time, or At Least Slowing it Down A Little.
Of the 10 outfield players who played the most minutes for D.C. in 2014, four are already 30 years of age or older, and two more are going to join that club early in the 2015 season. It's nice to have veteran leadership, but of the four 'plus 30s,' one plays center back, another plays center mid, and another is a forward. Add an outside back and forward to that, and it's fitting that RFK would be home to another football team that could be dubbed the Over the Hill Gang. One would have to presume that with the coming year, full of fixtures, that there is going to have to be some management of minutes involved.
7. Can the kids walk or even run?
Two CONCACAF Champions League games before the season starts. Add 2 tablespoons of U.S. Open Cup matches in May, and a heaping 1/4 cup of the 2015-16 CCL Group Stage in August, and it is little wonder that depth will be given a chance to show their talents over these periods. Jalen Robinson should see playing time with the big club, or at a minimum, perhaps get his own chance to show off his skills with playing time closer to home in Richmond. Moreover, Colin Martin and Michael Seaton should become reliable sources both as substitutions and possibly spot starting options in League competition. Along these same lines, Kofi Opare should be given some run as well, possibly to spell Steve Birnbaum and/or Bobby Boswell, but also if nothing else to see what kind of resources he has to serve as a center back on a longer timeline.
Granted this may be tough, particularly in Seaton's case with Jamaica being one of the countries involved in this year's Gold Cup tournament. And this leads to...
6. Bench players need to Get Up Offa That Thing.
To paraphrase the words of this guy, Andrew Driver, David Estrada and Jared Jeffrey need to shake until they feel better. This also rings true of Conor Doyle. This will need to especially ring true of Andrew Dykstra. Coaching change aside, consider that between the 2011 Gold Cup and 2014 World Cup squads for the United States, seven players have been on both squads (Tim Howard, Nick Rimando, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Jozy Altidore, Chris Wondolowski). One would have to presume that Bill Hamid would be considered for the 2015 roster, with Perry Kitchen given an outside chance at consideration, perhaps as soon as the coming National Team camp. If one or both of them leave, presumably with the MLS season still rolling along, you're suddenly looking at a strangely lacking D.C. United lineup the end of June and most of July.
5. Signings. U Haz Them?
Dave Kasper has said in the past that they don't want to make it rain, that they 'want to improve our depth and we are casting a wide net.' They certainly have been looking and if the 2015 MLS Draft is any indication, they would certainly add to some needed positions as well. But one would presume that a net loss of one player to the roster (adding Driver and two picks, subtract Samuel Inkoom, Joe Willis, Thomas McNamara and Lewis Neal) is not going to be the way that the team rolls into the players reporting to camp which, at this point is less than three weeks away, is it?
4. The Game Is Out There, It's Either Play Or Get Played.
In 2014, with so many Major League Soccer castoffs coming into one squad, one could illustrate what the locker room dynamic was. There were so many chips on the shoulders of D.C. United players, one couldn't be faulted if Hidden Valley was the jersey sponsor instead of Leidos. But things are different now. The team is the top seed in an international tournament in their region, and finished top of their Conference (Eastern jokes aside). Us against the world is the oldest mantra because is may remain the most effective, but now that they had the year they had, what is the message in the room going to be, and who is going to craft it? In hockey, Bruce Boudreau won the Coach of the Year in his first season, though it could be easily argued his second or even third seasons for the Washington Capitals were more impressive because of what was accomplished in the
3. So Who's The First Choice XI?
Eddie Johnson had a quietly impressive last three months of the season. Luis Silva, Chris Rolfe and Chris Pontius will all be healthy, together, in one area. Nick DeLeon will be...Nick DeLeon. Perry Kitchen will be the hammer, Davy Arnaud the sickle in midfield. When Fabian Espindola comes back from his six-game suspension, how does Olsen handle this (for him at least) wealth of riches in midfield and forward? He does not seem to be the type of guy to overthink it with these guys, but then again Pontius is the unknown. If he's 90-minute ready, then one would have to think he would be on one side of the midfield while DeLeon is on the other, with Rolfe playing the attacking midfielder role with Espindola? Does Johnson do the holdup role up front while Pontius or DeLeon come down the wings? Does Rolfe or Silva serve as attacking mid with Espindola AND Johnson up front? This may be interesting to play out, partly for an unforeseen factor.
2. The Evolution and Possible Unrealized Ceiling of Perry Kitchen.
We've said in the past that while he hasn't been with the team for as many years, Perry Kitchen has logged a pantload of minutes in his short time wearing Black and Red. And while he continued to progress playing next to (this time) Davy Arnaud, the reality is that Arnaud is not going to keep playing forever. Or at least, he'll be signed to Manchester City and not be available to his MLS Club until the summer, if at all. And while Kitchen learned a lot this year, he also became his own Hallmark factory with all the cards he generated, indicating there may still be things to learn. But it may not be noted enough that he's still young. Have I mentioned yet how Kitchen will be 22 when CCL starts, or that he's barely a year older than current en vogue darling Will Trapp?
Well then, consider this: Bill Hamid finally broke out in 2014 becoming the goalkeeper many hoped that he would become, and he just turned 24 in November. His prodigious physical gifts lend much to it, though one would have to think that finally having a consistent mentor in Preston Burpo had to help evolve his game to some degree. That and a defense that didn't compete with one another for best impression of a turnstile. Having Arnaud and his nearly 350 regular season and playoffs games around, for one more year at least, should only reduce the cards and improve the assists. If Hamid's season at 23 is any indication, look out for Kitchen's.
1. Hey, How's The Stadium Going?
One could make the case that while the stadium legislation (finally) coming to realization and approval, progress on same remains the top issue for the club. If it is going as Jason Levien and Tom Hunt wish it to go, do Will Chang and/or Erick Thohir start to do some auxiliary spending? I mean, do fancy positions like Assistant Team Administrator, Massage Therapist or Performance Analyst get created? If you go to the Front Office page of D.C. United's website as of New Year's Eve, there are 47 names by quick count. Care to guess how many are on a similar page of the Sporting Kansas City website? 73. The LA Galaxy has 59, not counting technical staff. The better the work at Buzzard Point goes, as the days get closer, the team infrastructure can only improve. And we haven't even talked about the investments on the field yet.
The East may still be the East in some areas, however, we can also look back to the 2013-14 offseason for another lesson as well. D.C. United added resources and improved, and the results were staggering. Look for other teams to do the same or try to at least, particularly after the CBA has been hashed out, and look for them to be the hunted in 2015.
An admittedly nice place to be in after so long.