Taylor Kemp, a spritely 25 years of age, has just finished his third season with D.C. United, as a staple of the back line. He was acquired straight out of the University of Maryland way back in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. I remember there was great excitement when that happened.
Where are we now?
First, the positives.
Taylor Kemp crosses. As left back, he's known to venture straight up the line on a counterattack and cross that ball. His crosses have made us swoon, repeatedly. The man went from 2 assists in 13 games played in 2014 to 6 assists in 27 games played in 2015. That's a nearly 50 percent improvement on the assist board in one year. One of his beauties was the 80th minute cross to Jairo Arrieta to seal a tie with the New England Revolution and keep us in first place back in May. Let's go to the video.
Taylor Kemp shoots. On those counters, he sometimes finds himself in position to take a shot. In 2015, it happened seven times. And one of those times, versus Real Salt Lake, was sublime -- a potential MLS goal of the year. Let's watch that again. And again.
I think it's fair to say DC United's rise to first was due in part to Taylor Kemp.
Now, the negatives.
How many times, especially later in the season, did we see Kemp outclassed by a striker? The man can counter, but his All-ACC jockeying skills were too often left in the dust by certain professionals. And his frustration led to some yellow cards (6 yellows this year, to be exact -- if you can't beat 'em, trip 'em or push 'em!). And at least one cough-up/handball. College can't prepare you for everything.
I think it's fair to say that Taylor Kemp was still on a learning curve just as the seasoned pros on the other side of the ball were hitting their focused stride late in the season -- and that just served as more grease on the slide out of first place.
His saving grace was that he seemed to get it, and figured out how to become stingier on the back line in the playoffs. But it was too little and too late for DC United's 2015 run. (Incidentally, I'll note that the better defense appeared to come at the expense of his offensive threat.)
So what do you think? Can Kemp continue his defensive improvements while not sacrificing the threat on the counter?