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D.C. United season review: Taylor Kemp

The fourth year left back played in 31 league games in 2016, tying his career high with 6 assists

Taylor Kemp entered the 2016 as the starting left back for D.C. United, and through solid performances during the season, it was unsurprising that the fourth year defender ended 2016 the same exact way. That was partly due to little competition for his position on the field, but Kemp continued his growth as a professional, a marked improvement from when he entered the league in 2013.

Kemp played in a career high 31 league games in 2016. Add in two Champions League games, 75 minutes in the US Open Cup as a substitute, and 90 minutes in the playoff defeat to the Montreal Impact, the left back logged 3090 minutes in 35 games, 33 of which were starts.

With Chris Korb unavailable for the entire season recovering from an ACL injury suffered in 2015, manager Ben Olsen relied heavily on the combination of Kemp and Sean Franklin as his outside backs for the entire season. Both played every minute of the MLS season until August 24th, when Franklin and Kemp split halves against the Impact.

With Kemp has been able to keep himself healthy for most of the past two seasons, he started in 39 straight MLS games, from June 27th, 2015 to August 21st, 2016. In those 39 games, Kemp played 90 minutes 38 times, the lone removal coming in the 2015 season finale against Columbus Crew SC.

Statistically, Kemp’s 2016 mirrored his 2015, the first season in which he was the starting left back for the entire season. Kemp chipped in one goal and six assists in 2016, the same exact output as 2015 from the former Maryland Terrapin. Kemp’s goal came against the Philadelphia Union in August, when he intercepted a pass in his own half, and surged all the way into the Union box before firing a shot past Andre Blake.

Kemp’s first assist didn’t come until the 1-0 win at Sporting Kansas City on May 27th, when he provided the assist for Alhaji Kamara’s game winning goal. He added assists against Montreal and New York Red Bulls in July and August, but Kemp had one of his best ever games on September 24th against Orlando City SC, when he notched three assists in United’s 4-1 win. The left back had primary assists on goals by Patrick Mullins and Lloyd Sam, and had a secondary assist on a goal by Julian Buescher late in the game.

For a moment in time, Kemp was credited with another secondary assist in that game, on Mullins’ second goal, which would have tied Kemp for a MLS record of four assists in a game. That assist was removed after the fact though, leaving Kemp with just a share of the team record.

In addition to being held out of two games due to schedule congestion, Kemp missed one game due to a toe injury. Kemp did not make the trip up north on October 1st to play against Toronto FC, a game which United won to strengthen their playoff position. There was then two weeks off before the next game, a home tilt against New York City FC, and Kemp was able to return to the mix for that game.

Kemp added his first every MLS playoff goal in the 4-2 defeat to the Impact, scoring the second goal after the game had long been decided. His left footed shot from long range had enough bend on it to get past keeper Evan Bush, a small consolation as United crashed out of the playoffs prematurely.

Kemp, who turned 26 in July, appears to be the unquestioned starter at left back for United heading into 2017. Luke Mishu hasn’t been able to push Franklin or Kemp for minutes, and Korb is still a question mark in terms of when he will return from his long injury layoff.