Our D.C. United season review series started off with an easy one, but now it gets tricky. Vytautas Andriuškevičius, better known as Vytas, came to the District in August, with United sending $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money to the Portland Timbers for the Lithuanian international. It seemed at the time that there would be real competition between him and Joseph Mora for the left back job, while guys like Oniel Fisher and Nick DeLeon would no longer have to regularly fill in over there.
When United unveiled Vytas (and Bill Hamid, whose loan was sealed at the same time), Dave Kasper told media that when discussing trade targets at left back, Ben Olsen had specifically mentioned acquiring the Black-and-Red’s newest field player during the winter. “Ben [Olsen] said, ‘what about this Vytas guy?’,” said Kasper at the time. “I said Ben, you’re not going to get Vytas, it’s just not going to happen.”
Kasper was being realistic. Vytas, whose green card means he doesn’t count as an international, had made 34 appearances for the Timbers in the 1.5 seasons he’d played there coming into 2018. At the time, Portland’s options to replace the 28 year old were using journeyman Zarek Valentin out of position or rolling the dice on young homegrown signing Marco Farfan.
Unfortunately for Vytas, an ill-timed hamstring strain just before the season began opened the door for Valentin, and new boss Giovanni Savarese liked what he saw. Vytas played 8 minutes off the bench at the end of March, then didn’t appear in MLS again until making two similarly short cameos in July. The Timbers did give him the full 90 minutes in all three of their Open Cup matches, and they gave him 4 starts with Timbers 2 to stay fit, but the writing was on the wall.
It seemed like a promising landing spot for Vytas, as Mora had only just begun to round into the form we saw at the end of the year. Olsen wasted no time including Vytas in the gameday 18, as he was in uniform two days after being unveiled in the 3-2 win over Orlando City that will go down in United lore. However, with a game against New England three days later followed by Portland the following weekend, Olsen — perhaps considering the fact that Vytas has not played a competitive game in a month — opted not to rotate. Mora started against the Revs, and against the Timbers. United won both games, with Vytas dressed but not making his debut both times.
That pattern held up. A week after thumping Portland, United had another three games in a week. Vytas was in uniform for all three games, but once again did not appear for even a minute in losses to the Red Bulls and Union, nor did he sub into the win over Atlanta United. Mora’s response to the increased competition was exactly what you would want, but at the same time, you had to feel for Vytas a bit. What was it going to take for him to get onto the field?
As it turned out, he never actually played. A hip flexor injury sustained in training between the Atlanta win and a draw at NYCFC (a game where United had just 15 players in uniform) sidelined him for the rest of the season, and any pressure to rush him back was alleviated by Nick DeLeon’s return from a knee injury. Though Vytas was participating in training by the time the playoffs rolled around, United’s short run in the postseason meant he never managed to make his debut.
Nonetheless, Vytas seemed to be an amiable presence within the locker room, and didn’t appear to ever let the tough circumstances get him down. He also managed to prevent United from being turned into a meme in the playoffs:
United unsurprisingly opted to decline the option on a deal that guaranteed Vytas (who had played in the Dutch top flight before coming to MLS) $271,875. It remains unclear whether they’re going to pursue a cheaper deal with a player they once appeared to be genuinely pleased to have landed, or if Vytas is going to leave having never played for the club.
Which brings us to the main question: Would you want United to keep an MLS veteran in his prime and with Eredivisie experience around to compete with Mora, or do you want them to look elsewhere?
Do you want Vytas back for the 2019 season?
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