As deserved as D.C. United's recent reputation for playing older players, Ben Olsen does have a corps of relatively younger guys he's bringing along as well. Collin Martin could be in for more use this year if early preseason games are any indication, and Steve Birnbaum has had himself quite a 2016 without even reporting yet for United's camp. There are also players closer to the fringes of the team, like Jared Jeffrey and Conor Doyle. And then there's the subject of this post, Miguel Aguilar.
After starting the year with a golazo to help United claim the coolest (meaningless) trophy anywhere in the world - the one and only 'Dillo-- Actually, let's pause for a second to relive that moment. (The sequence begins around 12:50, and if you keep watching past the replays, you can see our own BlasianSays tweeting about it from the crown.)
Anyway, after starting the year with that ridiculous strike, Aguilar won hearts with a dribbling exhibition early in the MLS season on his way to 17 appearances for the Black-and-Red. One of those was a 1-0 Champions League win ove Arabe Unido where Aguilar provided the game's only goal. Another saw him score against Montego Bay United. In the end, B&RU readers overwhelmingly voted to keep the Juarez, Mexico native around for a second season. He also edge out the field in our newcomer of the year voting.
And for good reason, it would seem. After reports early this winter that the University of San Francisco product was putting his all into offseason training, and he scored United's only goal from open play through two preseason games.
The question with Aguilar has never been his ceiling, it's whether he can reach that high level on a consistent basis. More immediately, the question is whether he can fight through a crowd to get minutes at his natural wide midfield position. In addition to Nick DeLeon and Conor Doyle, who were frequently preferred to Aguilar last season, new additions Lamar Neagle and Patrick Nyarko - not to mention Chris Rolfe, depending on the formation United run out - are likely to play a lot.
This congestion at his position - though he can also play up top in a two-forward system - makes me think that not breaking through this season wouldn't really represent failure for Aguilar. If he puts in some good shifts as a substitute and shows well in spot starts and the U.S. Open Cup, I think it will have been a good year. If he ends the year as a starter or a guy who is among the first off the bench, he'll be ahead of schedule and exceeding expectations.
That's my take, anyway, share your thoughts on Aguilar in the comments.
Ed. note: We understand that as this story is posted there are only 16 days until D.C. United kicks off their 2016 in Queretaro, Mexico. But it's been busy around here, and this got lost in the mix. Please forgive the oversight.