While Ben Olsen has said that he doesn't expect to make too many changes this offseason, D.C. United has already made its first addition to the roster. In the Chivas USA dispersal draft this afternoon, United selected midfielder/forward Thomas McNamara. Before being drafted this past winter by the Goats, McNamara spent four years at Brown - redshirting one - before finishing his college eligibility with Clemson.
As a rookie, McNamara pushed past several more established players to earn a starting role in coach Wilmer Cabrera's lineup during the preseason. The West Nyack, NY native made his debut playing as a withdrawn forward, and he made an instant first impression:
From there, McNamara started five more games: Twice as an attacking midfielder in a 4231, one in the second forward role he played in his debut, once on the left wing, and one in central midfield in a 442. Unfortunately, what was shaping up to be a season spent contending for the Rookie of the Year award was curtailed due to a torn ACL suffered in that sixth match, and McNamara did not play for the rest of the 2014 season.
Even with that long injury layoff, United fans should be happy with the pick. McNamara is that all-too-rare specimen: The impishly creative American attacking midfielder. There is a real swagger to how he plays the game, and adding him to the roster strikes a blow against the narrative that "Bennyball" is entirely built around hard work, defending, and opportunism.
That said, McNamara also puts in his fair share of hard work, and while he doesn't have the look of a typical soccer player, he has enough quickness to be an option on either flank. He's also smart enough to know that speed of foot can be made up for with speed of thought. Go back and watch that previously linked goal highlight and watch McNamara the whole time. He probably got away with a shove on Dilly Duka, but that is precisely how he ends up beating him to the ball. Smart players do that sort of thing all the time to gain those extra steps on their opponent.
Assuming he is fully recovered from his injury - and seven months is a full month longer than the normal ACL recovery time - McNamara will contend for minutes straight away for United. I'm not sure Olsen will give him starts, but he will get substitute minutes on a regular basis. It's not hard to imagine Olsen using McNamara as Chris Rolfe's understudy from the left, or to spell Nick DeLeon on the right, or even to come on for Davy Arnaud in central midfield when United is chasing a goal. McNamara will also likely see minutes at forward, especially since Olsen has a strong tendency to sub Luis Silva off after 70 or so minutes. In other words, get used to seeing the guy on gameday rosters.
Of course, all that hinges on United keeping McNamara through the Expansion Draft. There are no protections afforded to Dispersal Draft picks, so if United wants to guarantee that he won't end up with Orlando City or NYCFC, he will have to be included on the club's protected list.