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D.C. United season review 2018: Nick DeLeon

NDL’s season included a long spell on the sideline, and a roller coaster playoff game

Nick DeLeon came into the 2018 season with D.C. United, his 7th with the club, as the unquestioned starter at right back. The Black-and-Red brought in Oniel Fisher, a reserve defender from the Seattle Sounders, to back-up United’s first round pick from the 2012 SuperDraft. Those two spent the first couple of games of the season swapping roles at right back and left back, as United had to come to grips with what was the eventual retirement of Taylor Kemp, while waiting for the arrival of Joseph Mora at left back.

DeLeon, who was limited to just 19 games in 2017 due to a hernia injury, started the first 10 games in 2018 for the Black-and-Red. He recorded his only assist on the road against Real Salt Lake in May, crossing the ball into the box for a Steven Birnbaum header, the final tally in a 3-2 defeat. Two games later, DeLeon went off injured in the first half against Los Angeles FC.

That cost the utility man the next 19 games on United’s schedule. When he went out injured, D.C. were amidst their long road trip, awaiting Audi Field. All NDL missed on the field was the opening of the new stadium at Buzzard Point, the arrival of Wayne Rooney, the return of Bill Hamid, and Luciano Acosta ascending into superstar mode.

DeLeon finally returned to the field on October 7, making a three minute cameo in the 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire. His return could not have come at a better time, as Fisher had suffered a long term knee injury the game before against the Montreal Impact. DeLeon started two of the final five games after his return. Ben Olsen seemed reluctant to run out DeLeon too much after his return, instead entrusting Paul Arriola at right back.

After going the full 90 minutes in the final game of the season against the Fire, Olsen started Arriola over DeLeon in the knockout round game at Audi Field against the Columbus Crew. DeLeon would enter the game in the second half, replacing Arriola, who had to leave with an injury. From there, DeLeon would rescue United’s season in extra time, scoring a wonderful volley in the 116th minute, to send the game in penalties.

Rooney and Acosta both had their spot kicks saved, which meant that when DeLeon fired over the goal from 12 yards out, United were out of the playoffs after a wild 2018. DeLeon finished thee season with 16 appearances, one goal and one assist to his name.

Last week, United announced that DeLeon had his option declined for the 2019 season. DeLeon’s deal had him earning $275,000, and the Washington Post’s Steven Goff reported that the team wanted DeLeon back, just at a salary that was more team friendly.

The right back is still just 28 years old, a prime age for defenders. But with various injuries, DeLeon has appeared in just 34 regular season games of the past two seasons. With Fisher likely out until the summer, it would seem that if NDL is re-signed, he would be the presumed starter at right back, unless Olsen plans to convert Arriola to a full-time defender.

Should United go and get a starting quality right back during the offseason, or should United stick with DeLeon (or Arriola)?


Do you want Nick DeLeon back for the 2019 season?

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