Another day closer to D.C. United first competitive match of the 2015 season, and another player to contemplate. While Lewis Neal has departed for the sunny climes of Florida, Perry Kitchen will hopefully be around for years to come. He has emerged into a stalwart for D.C. United, and has finally received his first call-up to the USMNT (with his first cap hopefully coming this Sunday).
This season for D.C. United, Kitchen emerged as more of a box to box threat, scoring five goals to go with his four assists. He and Davy Arnaud would take turns going forward into the attack and staying behind to shield the defense. And, down the stretch of the 2014 season, it was Perry Kitchen who was further forward than Davy Arnaud, more often charging into the attack while Arnaud stayed back. This evolution from a pure destroyer into a more complete midfielder is something United fans have been waiting for, and shows that his growth as a player is still not complete.
While Kitchen will play that position again, whether it be next to Davy Arnaud or Markus Halsti, for D.C. United, his position for the national team is likely to be back in the destroyer role. Michael Bradley will be playing the box to box role for years to come, so the most likely place for Kitchen to break in would be in the defensive midfielder role occupied by Kyle Beckerman at the last World Cup. For some reason Jurgen Klinsmann has been playing Mix Diskerud in this position in the past few friendlies, but I don't think that is a sustainable change as the Gold Cup approaches this summer.
But all of this leads to the question: Is Kitchen a pure destroyer or is he a box to box midfielder? Of course, he can shuffle back and forth between the two positions, and it won't make too much of a difference. But one school of thought would posit that he should play his national team position at the club level, so that he can maximize his preparation. However, Ben Olsen would never do anything but put his best team on the field, so I don't see that happening. Luckily (or not), Jurgen Klinsmann loves versatility, so I think that a box to box Kitchen with some attacking prowess would be the next generation Beckerman.
But regardless of what happens to him on the national team level, I am excited to see what Kitchen can do as a box to box midfielder this year. He changed all of our minds on that last year, and I think he can change the minds of the league this year.