As D.C. United, looking to build on a strong end to the 2018 season, opened preseason training this week a little light on numbers. Part of that is due to international absences, with Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse, and Joseph Mora expected to join the club in Florida. However, at Wednesday’s open practice, there were just 21 players available. Of that group, just 15 are under contract.
The team’s captain, Wayne Rooney, didn’t mince words when asked about the team’s needs heading into the 2019 campaign.
“We need more players, that’s for sure. The squad is a bit thin,” Rooney said to a group of reporters, after United’s practice in Springfield, Virginia.
Of course, General Manager Dave Kasper and Head Coach Ben Olsen, the main decision makers on all things relating to the roster for United, are well aware of just what United needs before the March 3rd season opener against Atlanta United.
There are two main positions of need for the Black-and-Red as of right now: a starter at right back, after the offseason departure of Nick DeLeon, and with Oniel Fisher both out of contract and still on the mend from last year’s knee surgeries is probably top of the list.
In addition, there’s just one forward on the roster. Rooney won’t be replaced as the starter, but the club needs a credible back up to eat up some minutes during the season, especially when United will face short turnarounds from one game to the next.
“I think in the next couple of days, we’ll have a few signings that will be here quickly after those are announced,” Olsen told reporters on Wednesday, when asked how quickly he thought the any new signings could join up with the team.
After a wildly successful second half of 2018, up until the playoff game against the Columbus Crew, there has been a bit of turmoil surrounding United in the offseason. Yamil Asad doesn’t look likely to return to the District despite United wishing to retain the Argentine’s services. Olsen went as far on Wednesday to thank Asad for his contributions to the team, although Kasper said talks are still ongoing.
And then there were the rumors that Boca Juniors fullback Leonardo Jara might be the solution at right back, but there have been some complications to that as well. It seems that United is still talking to Jara and Boca Juniors, but whether or not that results in the Black-and-Red finding their solution in defense remains to be seen.
“Jara, that’s ongoing,” Olsen said of talks with the Argentine. “There’s a lot of rumors out there, and hopefully we’ll have an answer on that sooner than later.”
But according to Olsen, none of this is out of the ordinary for the silly season, when rumors abound, and clubs have to wrangle with many aspects of player acquisitions for someone to move from one club to another.
“Every offseason is a circus. It’s how this sport is made,” Olsen joked during his media scrum. “There are a lot of things that are almost there, and then fall off. It’s just the nature of the offseason.”
That said, as United look to add more players to their arsenal, they also believe that this team is already well stocked to make another run at the playoffs. Rooney and Luciano Acosta return, with every chance of recreating their magic from 2018. Canouse and Junior Moreno will likely grow as protectors of the back line, which will once again be solidified by Bill Hamid.
“We want to pick up where we left off, so it’s a pretty exciting group to start the year with,” Kasper said on Wednesday during a chat with a group of reporters. “We are going to add another three or four players before the start of the year.”