Rob Vincent was this year’s player that D.C. United signed from USL, with the team paying a transfer fee to secure his services from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. He served as an attacking midfielder in USL, scoring 18 goals primarily from the left wing. By the end of his first year in MLS, he had completed a full Ben Olsen and transitioned from the wing to a starter at defensive midfield.
Throughout the beginning half of the season, Vincent filled the role that we all thought he would: an attacking substitute off the bench who would also start Open Cup and very short turnaround games. He started the second game of the season, a 0-0 draw with New England, and accumulated another 38 minutes on the field from then up until the Copa America break. After that break, he started the first game on the wing, subbed into the second game on the wing, and then sat for the the next four.
Then, on July 31st, he subbed into the central midfield for the first time when Jared Jeffrey got hurt. The next week, he got his first start in defensive midfield with Marcelo Sarvas out. Two games later, he started against Montreal again, and stayed in that central midfield spot for the last 10 games of the season as well as the playoff game.
And while not spectacular, Vincent was quietly efficient as a defensive midfielder, a terrier type that has long been a feature of D.C. United teams. He wasn’t the defensive midfielder that the team wanted, with its pursuit of Antonio Nocerino and the trade for Marcelo Sarvas, but he ended up being the best fit for this team in that position down the stretch. With Vincent locking down the 1 in the 4-1-4-1, it allowed Luciano Acosta and Marcelo Sarvas (or Jared Jeffrey) the freedom of the rest of the midfield and to link up with the attack. He’s not the only reason (by far), but Vincent was starting for both of United’s six game unbeaten streaks at the end of the season.
I think most of us would agree that an upgrade in that position is a need for United this offseason, but (and here I’m spoiling my vote) Vincent’s versatility all across the field has vaulted him from a USL signing to someone who has a decent shot of being selected in the expansion draft if not protected.
So, to the question itself: