D.C. United is at the halfway point of their preseason, and while they’ve made some splashy acquisitions, the roster is still thin. After signing Edison Flores, a starter for the Peruvian national team, and trading for Julian Gressel, one of the top chance Creators in MLS, D.C. United’s roster still currently stands at 23 players. This includes homegrown players like Moses Nyeman and Kevin Parades, who are expected to play most of the season in Loudoun, but if D.C. United carries this light of a roster, they may need to play in MLS. While the team has a great core of players in their starting XI, there are places the team needs to reinforce before February 29.
The goalkeeper situation is fairly solid right now, with Bill Hamid the locked-in starter, and with Chris Seitz and Earl Edwards Jr. competing for the minutes behind him. As with last year, Edwards will likely get Loudoun United minutes to help him continue to develop, but I could see him pushing Seitz for time during the US Open Cup or in the disaster scenario of Bill Hamid getting injured. Or if, perhaps, Hamid makes a late push for the national team in the Nations League final this summer.
The back line, while it has some great players, still doesn’t have the depth needed for a full MLS season. There is currently only one backup each for the fullbacks and the center backs: Joseph Mora is the clear starter at left back, and currently Chris Odoi-Atsem and Oniel Fisher are the only other natural fullbacks on the team. Similarly, Frederic Brillant and Steven Birnbaum are the likely starters at center back, and there is only Donovan Pines currently as cover if either of them are injured or in poor form.
The shortage of fullbacks can be addressed by moving a number of players around. Julian Gressel, Russel Canouse, Paul Arriola, and Yamil Asad all have experience deputizing as fullbacks, and Gressel has semi-regular experience playing as a wingback. But if you start to move players out of their natural positions, there are knock-on effects on the depth chart up there.
Currently, if Ben Olsen were to move Russell Canouse to fullback, that would leave only Felipe, Junior Moreno, and Moses Nyeman available to play there. Nyeman is a big talent but is currently untested at the MLS-level, and fellow hyped homegrown player Griffin Yow didn’t move the needle much in his first MLS appearances despite his Loudoun success.
In attacking midfield, Ben Olsen has a bunch of options, with Edison Flores, Paul Arriola, Yamil Asad, and Julian Gressel all able to play across that line as formations and player availability allow. There are also ample backups, with Ulises Segura, Emmanuel Boateng, Griffin Yow, and Kevin Paredes all available.
Finally, up top there is currently only Ola Kamara and Erik Sorga. Kamara has yet to feature in a preseason game, and while nothing official has been said, I can’t help but wonder if he is dealing with a minor injury. While Sorga started the last preseason game, Ulises Segura was deputized as a forward after Sorga came off. Sorga is an exciting prospect but is completely unproven in this league; the team needs another forward to push Sorga for minutes, in case he doesn’t pan out, to give the team another look, or in case Kamara gets hurt.
My current starting XI for February 29th would look something like this, and if everyone is health (not a given) this is a quality starting bunch:
But in June, during the CONCACAF Nations League and the Copa America, even a full-strength roster with no injuries could look more like this:
If Edison Flores, Paul Arriola, Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora, and Ulises Segura are all on international duty at the same time this summer, which is definitely possible, D.C. United could be left with 18 players for their games, and that includes all three goalkeepers. Other than Sorga, the only other substitutes across the entire field would be D.C. United homegrown players; I want them to break out and show us they belong right away, but we don’t know that yet. Also, this lineup is assuming that no one has gotten injured throughout the season.
If I had my druthers and were running D.C. United, I would add another fullback, another center back, and another forward. While there have been some high-profile signings this offseason, there are still some depth signings that need to be made.