The 2015 MLS Superdraft wasn't supposed to be a particularly exciting day for D.C. United. Despite a history of drafting very well, United showed up at the Philadelphia Convention Center with only two picks: The 17th overall - which is late in the first round - and the 42nd overall, which was the very last pick of the day. The idea was probably to hope for other teams to reach and/or make mistakes in their talent evaluation process so that the #17 pick would turn out to be someone that could make the squad.
As for the #42 pick, it wouldn't be a surprise for United to stay local, or maybe roll the dice on someone who fell due to international status or perhaps a player who was iffy about even playing in MLS. Basically, the pick was a long shot. Instead, United ended up with Dan Metzger, a player most had expected to go in the first round. Ben Olsen referred to the former University of Maryland captain as a top ten pick. Part of drafting well is luck, and it appears that United's brain trust felt fortunate to have a shot at picking Metzger.
So we know United is happy to have the New Jersey native on board, but is he going to see much of the field? Metzger's a defensive midfielder, which means he's got guys like Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, and Markus Halsti all ahead of him. That doesn't include Jared Jeffrey, and while Collin Martin has seen time wide he is much better in a central (attacking) role.
As such, fans should see the positive here: Metzger is a good player, but United's central midfield depth means he's going to struggle to see major minutes in 2015. Kitchen is only one year older than Metzger and has four full seasons of pro soccer - and now a USMNT cap - under his belt. Arnaud is a 13-year MLS veteran who has captained teams in the past. Halsti plays for the Finnish national team and was recently playing UEFA Champions League soccer. That's tough competition.
Instead, Metzger may end up competing with Jeffrey to be the understudy for that group. That's intriguing, because both players are considered to be better playing in a deeper role than United's flat-ish midfield offers. At Maryland, Metzger played the anchor role in a 4132; Jeffrey, meanwhile, only shows his full passing range when his starting position is just in front of the center backs. Metzger's preseason debut ended up being at the bottom of a midfield diamond, but as it's preseason that's probably more of an experiment than a permanent plan.
The object for Metzger in 2015 needs to be to prove he can play in the 442 rather than only being at his best playing deep. It's not that he needs to be a more attacking player, but rather his position is alongside another player. He's still going to function as a destroyer more than anything else, but the ins and outs of playing a double pivot are a lot different from staying deep and being a tempo-setter like he was at Maryland. There's more ground to cover, and covering it in the wrong moment can have severe consequences. It also tends to require more one- and two-touch soccer, as things tend to be more crowded in that region of the field.
Our Richmond-based readers are likely to see more of Metzger in person in 2015 than those of us who can't make the drive down to see the Kickers. Metzger can start at that level, and winning a regular starting job for Leigh Cowlishaw's side is probably the best statement he can make towards playing more for United down the road.
Then again, don't count Metzger out. We're talking about a highly competitive character who got used to starting (and winning) games on an elite Terrapins side in college, and we're also talking about someone with the good sense to avoid a New York Red Bulls Homegrown kiss of death. It might not be immediately apparent, but Olsen's excitement about the last pick in the draft makes sense.