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D.C. United season review: Marcelo Sarvas

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Marcelo was an understated but vital piece of the puzzle in 2016

D.C. United was in need of some sort of two-way midfield help after Perry Kitchen said that he would not re-sign for the Black-and-Red at the end of 2015 (and eventually went to Scotland side Heart of Midlothian FC). They were unsuccessful in their quest to sign Antonio Nocerino from AC Milan after Orlando City tampered with D.C.’s pursuit acquired his rights and signed him to a contract, so D.C. looked inside the league.

Enter Marcelo Sarvas. Then 34, D.C. acquired his rights from the Colorado Rapids (the Rapids said that Jermaine Jones was on their radar at the time but that other factors were at play in the decision). Additionally, Sarvas was one player whose potential acquisition was vetted by D.C.’s analytics man Stewart Mairs (Patrick Nyarko being another among those examinations). Sarvas’ time as a full-on defensive midfielder in MLS and overall was fairly scant, but the decision was made to put him in the position while Nick DeLeon was apprenticed as a two-way central midfielder underneath Luciano Acosta.

As it turned out, Sarvas was surprisingly adept in the role. First, the (sort of) bad: he committed 67 fouls in 28 games. Were it not for absences to injury and suspension, he would most likely have broken D.C.’s single season record of 76 (held by Carey Talley). He was 4th in the league for that total and led the league in yellow cards, which led to a Sarvas suspension or two.

Now, the good: at 3.6 tackles per game, the only players who had the same or more, in more minutes than Sarvas’ 2,247, are the creme de la creme of defensive mids: Osvaldo Alonso (3.6), Diego Chara (3.7) and Matias Laba and his league-leading 4.1. His 2.4 fouls per game were second to Chara’s 2.9, and his 3 interceptions per game was only behind Micheal Azira (3.5) for midfielders in MLS who played more minutes. Simply put, Sarvas was fantastic in a new position, at his age.

However, when Sarvas was out, while it did provide Jared Jeffrey (and to an extent, Rob Vincent) a chance to see how they did in the middle, it did go back to something that our own Jason Anderson said about Sarvas and the team in the second game of the season:

Either Sarvas will run himself into the ground and simply not have the legs for the back half of the season, or he will pick up an injury (like he did last year) and miss weeks. Sarvas needs help from his teammates, and United needs someone to step up and emerge as a viable alternative so the Brazilian can rest at some point.

And we love Sarvas, but he’s not a long-term alternative at the position. Either the position needs some sort of viable CDM help, or homegrown signing Chris Durkin needs to be introduced to the first team sooner rather than later, provided Durkin is the 6 that Ben Olsen is looking for now that Kitchen’s gone.

Another consideration, particularly when it comes to this year, is that Sarvas’ full salary should appear on the books, which means a salary in excess of the $425,000 he made last year will be on D.C.’s account (they offset his salary with allocation money when acquiring him).

So, when it comes to his age, his salary, and his performance: