Season Preview - DC United

I like DC United. Really. Their uniforms are classy and their fan support is top-notch. And they have a wonderful tradition of winning, which is something almost every club in the young MLS lacks, and they added to it last year by taking the US Open Cup.

That success was deceptive, because for a team that expects to win every year, they failed to even make the playoffs in 2008. (Although, in fairness, United were still technically not eliminated until the final weekend of the season.) They were even worse in Concacaf Champions League play, looking completely uninspired and often trotting out second-team players who were totally outmatched. Down the stretch, the black and red were relying on USL callups to be the sparks in both defense (Greg Janicki) and attack (Boyzee Khumalo. Yes, that's really his name). The main problem on the field was newly signed playmaker Marcello Gallardo. Or rather, the lack of Gallardo on the field - while brilliant when healthy, he was injured more often than not. Goalkeeping woes and a leaky defense didn't help either.

Over the offseason, there was one big move made, which was the return of Christian Gomez to DC. Gomez, a beloved star central midfielder for United from 2004 to 2007, will hopefully fit right in to his old role after effectively a one-year exile in Colorado. He joins an attack that, when healthy, has more starpower than any other in the league. The legendary Jaime Moreno (who has the most goals all-time in MLS, 122) is partnered up top with Luciano Emilio, who himself has scored 31 times in just 2 seasons. With Fred and Santino Quaranta on the flanks, they have the potential to be very dangerous.

There is a major problem in attack, though - age. DC has some old dudes. Moreno was their best player last year, but he's 35 now, at the age where a striker can completely fall off any given season. Gomez himself is 34 and Emilio is 31. Relying on 3 over-30 players to lead you offensively is very risky, especially since the reserves at forward are somewhat lacking. Another question is keeper. Even when healthy, Louis Crayton is always an adventure between the pipes. But the biggest trouble spot is the back line. The USL callup Janicki will be relied on to start, most likely, and Canadian signing Dejan Jakovic will be relied on heavily since the team lacks a standout defender.

I went into this article with the idea that DC United would be back in the playoffs, where they feel they belong, this year. Trouble is, they've got far more areas to worry about than to be confident about. If everyone stays healthier than last year, yeah, they could still be competitive in the east. It'll be tough, though. I think that when summer comes, they'd be better off putting a serious effort into the Concacaf Champions League this time around. Maybe that'll be how they get the trophy that their fans crave and deserve, because I don't see them winning MLS.

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