Bobby Boswell, D.C. United’s captain, has been a lynchpin of the team’s revival from the disaster of the 2013 season. Brought in during that offseason through the Re-Entry Draft, he immediately stepped into the captain’s role and United has made the playoffs in each of the three seasons of his return. After placing second in Defender of the Year voting in 2014, Boswell followed it up with another solid season in 2015
In 2016, however, he took a step back through both the statistical test and the eye test. Soccer statistics are notoriously incapable of painting the full picture of a player, but they can be useful when comparing the same player against himself or in conjunction with the eye test; so we did both. In every category in which higher numbers are better (tackles, interceptions, offside caused, clearances, and blocks), his numbers went down. In the category where higher numbers are worse (fouls), his numbers went up.
The eye test confirms what the statistics hint at. Especially early in the season, Boswell looked like he had taken a step backwards, alternating good games with poor ones. When D.C. United peaked near the end of the season, Boswell was also at his best. Finally, the last game of the season, Boswell (and everyone else) completely fell apart as team crashed out of the playoffs.
It was not the fact that he was physically slow this year; Boswell has always been slow of foot, and the fact that he’s gotten a little slower hasn’t been that much of a concern. However, he at times this season looked much slower of thought than he ever has, and that is when problems arose.
That is not to say that Boswell had a truly bad season; there were plenty of centerbacks, including plenty up and down I-95, who were far worse of the balance of an entire season. And, if Boswell’s intermittent problems truly were a lack of focus, then he could possibly rebound next season. And that just describes his bad games; when he was good, he was just as good as he's ever been, which means one of the better defenders in the entire league.
Other than new players, Boswell’s every move in the preseason will have the most weight attached to it, rightly or wrongly. At 34 at the beginning of next season, he could begin an imminent decline at any moment, or he could continue to be a starter at a solid level for another season or even two.
But all of this is prelude to the big question: Do you want the captain, Bobby Boswell, back next season?