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Countdown to soccer: 11 days - A brief history of Luis Silva's roles with D.C. United

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A year ago, many of us were convinced that Luis Silva's future with D.C. United lay in a more withdrawn role, but heading into 2015, the consensus is that he belongs on the forward line.

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When he joined D.C. United midway through 2013, Luis Silva provided an immediate ray of hope in a dreary season, scoring in each of his first three games, playing as a second forward. Not much else happened the rest of that season (beyond one October night in Sandy, Utah, of course), other than some experimentation by Ben Olsen in lining up Silva and Dwayne De Rosario in a double-false-nine atop his 442. Coming into the 2014 season, we all had a pretty good idea where Silva's future would lie, and that was in the #10 spot behind one or two forwards. He'd be an attacking midfielder in a 4132 or 4231. Only it didn't work out that way, and both Silva and the Black-and-Red are better off for it.

If you think back just about 11-1/2 months ago, United had spent their preseason working on a 4132 that centered on Luis Silva playing as a #10. Three weeks into the actual season, though, the system was not working. United could not keep possession through the middle of the field, and were being torn up through that zone in defense. They were winless on the year. And then Silva went down injured, forcing Olsen to rejigger things. Out went the diamond-ish midfield and in came a sturdier, flatter 442 with Davy Arnaud replacing Silva and dropping deeper, alongside Perry Kitchen, who duly moved up from d-mid into a box-to-box role. It was the shift that would define United's worst-to-first season.

By the time Silva had regained his fitness, the 442 was humming along, and there was no room in it for an attacking midfielder, which meant that the Los Angeles native had to move back to the forward line if he was going to see the field. Call it an inverse-Jaime Moreno, who went from out-and-out striker to more and more of a withdrawn role over the course of his career at RFK Stadium. The early returns on Silva's move higher up the field have been promising: 11 goals and 4 assists last year, on a first-place team.

Fast forward to today, and as Silva works his way back from a hamstring ailment that has plagued his offseason, we are more confident than ever that we were dead wrong about Luis Silva a year ago. At least in this version of D.C. United, he belongs on the forward line, where his ability to find pockets of space in and around the box allows him to create and (more importantly) finish chances. Thankfully, we know that now, and we can hopefully use that knowledge to avoid a repeat to the slow start that handicapped last season (assuming, of course, that he regains full fitness quickly enough to get on the field at the start of the season).