Believe it or not, we're only a little over two weeks from the start of D.C. United's preseason. Maybe it's just me, but this seems hard to believe given what has been a very quiet offseason thus far for the Black-and-Red. If we learned anything after 2012, it's that you can't stand pat in MLS. If you're not moving forward, you'll find out that you've regressed. United has managed to keep the starting lineup intact up to this point, but a lot of regulars on the substitute's bench are gone.
With that in mind, we're going to take a look at United's positional needs as things stand right now. Each piece will look at what we have on hand and whether that's good enough to take the next step in what will be a crowded and challenging 2015.
We start in goal, where United was very strong in 2014. Having MLS's Goalkeeper of the Year in the form of Bill Hamid is a great place to start, but this was also a position with substantial depth. Andrew Dykstra and Joe Willis both have over 20 MLS starts, and Dykstra is a two-time USL-PRO GKOTY. United's GK depth was as strong as any club around the league, and we didn't even see the nonsensical situation that Philadelphia created for themselves.
However, Willis wanted to find a place where he could reasonably challenge for starts as soon as possible, and United gave him his wish in trading him to Houston. With the Dynamo, Willis will have a real shot at competing with Tyler Deric, even though Deric will start the season as the incumbent. It's an opportunity Willis has earned, but it does leave United in need of another keeper.
That need is even more pronounced given that Dykstra is just over five months into his recovery from a torn achilles tendon. While there have been no indications of a setback - I can confirm that, at the post-stadium vote celebration, he walked untroubled up to the bar to buy a beer - a torn achilles is a particularly severe injury to overcome in this position. I'm not going to pretend to have any special medical knowledge here, but I have kept tabs on the MLS injury list over the years. Generally, six months is the absolute bare minimum in terms of being able to get back to training. Actually playing usually requires another month or two.
In other words, Dykstra might not be ready to play until mid-March. That doesn't take into consideration the possibility that his recovery is slower than normal or that he suffers a muscle strain (a very common problem for people coming off of long-term injuries) which delays his return to 100%. With that in mind, United's apparent depth suddenly feels a lot less secure.
However, if there's one thing that you can find without working too hard in American soccer, it's a trusty goalkeeper. This is our deepest position as a country, after all. That's not to say that Ben Olsen can just amble from his office up to East Capitol St. and just find a dude worth signing, but this isn't a particularly tricky obstacle for United.
Well, it isn't unless Hamid ends up departing. There is a chance that the current winter transfer window sees some club in Europe offer a few million for Hamid. The reality is that if the right offer is made, United will accept. It's Hamid's dream to go to the very top of this game, and it also must be noted that United is still looking at 2-3 more years of losing millions by playing at RFK. No one is rooting for a bid to come in by any means, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that United's only GK to open camp is Dykstra.
However, as I said before we're talking about things as they stand today, and rumors in the soccer world don't really mean much. With each of these pieces, we'll be having a staff vote as well as a reader poll on how bad the need is, and I'm asking that you vote based on the roster as it is the moment you are voting.
On the subject of goalkeepers, the votes from your faithful B&RU writers were pretty uniform. The two votes that slightly deviated from the group also served to balance one another out. I guess we're just big into symmetry. B&RU's staff landed firmly on 2, which is to say that we acknowledge that someone needs to be signed, but that it's not a priority.
For my part, I'm also voting 2 (we'll get to the scale in a moment). We're talking about a third-string GK here. United does need to have one on the roster, but spending lots of time and resources on hunting another keeper down is probably not a good plan. If he turns out to be good enough to challenge Andrew Dykstra for the back-up's job, it's a bonus. The idea is to find someone who could do that in 2016. Most likely, we'll be looking at non-first round draft picks or preseason trialists (perhaps Ryan Taylor, the Richmond Kickers GK who trained with United this past fall?). However, this could change quickly to 4 or 5 if Dykstra's recovery is slowed or if teams start making bids on Hamid.
That's our stance, anyway. Here's your chance to tell us how you feel about it: