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D.C. United season review: Nick DeLeon

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The Black-and-Red's most dependable player is up next in our season review series.

When it comes to D.C. United, there may be no more dependable player than Nick DeLeon. Bill Hamid has fought with the occasional injury, and the entire back four is prone to the occasional stinker. Fabian Espindola played barely half of the available minutes this season due to injury and suspension. Even Perry Kitchen and Chris Rolfe had stretches of 2015 where they were letting the games by without really distinguishing themselves.

Dependability is a good quality for any midfielder to have. Anyone who watches United knows that DeLeon is always going to be reliable on the ball, and he's going to put in a solid shift defensively (especially when it comes to going narrow to help the often outnumbered central midfield). Ben Olsen has said that he'd trust DeLeon to play anywhere except in goal.

The numbers point to DeLeon's trustworthiness. On a team that often lost the possession battle and focused on keeping games ugly, DeLeon completed 82.2% of his passes (and that's mostly playing as a wide midfielder, where turnovers are more common). DeLeon's awareness and willingness to track back makes him one of United's best players in defensive transition, and it's hard to imagine Olsen's 442 working without someone like DeLeon manning the flanks. When United played badly - and let's be honest, there were more outings that fit that bill than any of us are comfortable with - DeLeon was often the first field player to come up as having not been at fault for the team's showing.

Of course, there's being dependably good enough and being dependably good. The most common refrain you see online and in talking to fans with regards to DeLeon concerns him getting back to his 2012 form in terms of tangible production. Completed passes and defensive positioning are important qualities, but they aren't goals or assists. In United's system, DeLeon's 2 goals and 5 assists this year (the exact same figure as in 2014, but in 486 fewer minutes) are not where they need to be for DCU to be able to take things to the next level as a team. The wide midfielders in this set-up, playing DeLeon's minutes, need to score a goal every 700 minutes or so; over the last 3 years, he's scoring once every 1140 minutes. Of course, one of those goals was this one:

If you're the kind of fan that wants United to blow the roster up and change their overall tactical approach, you might be tempted to say that DeLeon is one of the starters that needs to be replacing. And if the 442 is maintained, you might have a case. However, if United is going to change their style to a more possession-oriented, attractive approach, DeLeon is a player you build around. In a diamond, for example, he'd be a near-ideal shuttler. He can play in a 433, or in a 4231 (provided the approach is more like Orlando's narrow version rather than asking him to fly up and down the touchline as a true winger).

My instincts tell me this is going to be a lopsided answer, but it's time to ask the question anyway: