Shortly after the 2014 MLS Cup, the league's two newest teams got their pick of the unprotected portions of every other teams' rosters. And so out-of-favor Columbus Crew SC striker Jairo Arrieta found himself suddenly an Orlando City SC player. And then, before any training camp convened, he found himself traded to D.C. United as the newest member of the forward corps of last year's Eastern Conference regular season champs. Given United's relatively deep front line - if everybody is healthy, Ben Olsen has his choice of DPs Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson, Luis Silva, Conor Doyle, homegrown Michael Seaton and midfield-slash-forwards Chris Pontius and Chris Rolfe - where does Arrieta fit into the club's plans?
The easy/obvious answer is "as depth." Even with Johnson and Silva on the shelf this preseason, Arrieta has been coming off the bench with the reserves, sitting behind the combination of Espindola and Pontius up front. That was always going to be the case, though. The more interesting question is probably less "where" Arrieta fits in and more "how" he'll jell with his teammates.
Even though he was often used as a lone forward in Columbus, Arrieta has never been a hold-up man - he's just not built for that type of game. He uses smarts and guile to find spaces to receive the ball and either create or go to goal, not too unlike Luis Silva.
Which I think explains why Olsen and Dave Kasper went out and brought Arrieta in this offseason. As we've spent much virtual ink discussing around these parts, United will potentially have an obscene number of matches in 2015 by current MLS standards, and Luis Silva has never been the most durable player. With EJ's health issues and the fragility Silva and Pontius have suffered through their pro careers, getting a proper backup for Silva, the presumed starter and Pontius, who looks thus far in preseason like another option to start.
The problem arises when we consider that the Espindola-Silva partnership shouldn't work anywhere near as well as it does. Neither player is prone to occupy the centerbacks during the buildup, usually considered a necessity to keep them from snuffing out the pockets of space where creative players thrive in the final third. But the two developed an instant understanding, using movement and combination play to flummox defenders. Would Fabi be able to develop a similar rapport with the newcomer?
Or is Arrieta far enough down the depth chart that it doesn't matter how he'd play with Espindola - because the two of them aren't likely to see the field together anyway (barring injury crisis, of course)?
I can see the logic of acquiring Arrieta, but I go back and forth over whether I agree with it and whether it makes sense given some of the other offseason wants/needs. So, I'll leave it to you readers: how do you think Arrieta will do with United this year?