D.C. United has made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons after a quick turn around from their putrid 2013. After last season’s quick exit, they are trying to make it four years in a row using a team that hasn’t changed much. Their transfers in don’t contain any slam dunk starters, so the main cast will feature much of what got them to the postseason a year ago.
Three Questions for the 2017 D.C. United Season
Their roster contains a generous mix of young players trying to earn the keep in MLS and experienced guys that can help them along. The youth will be counted on to play a big role, meaning they will have to get up to speed quickly. Meanwhile, the older players will also have to be able to keep up. Here are three questions worth addressing.
Will the Young Players Shine?
D.C. United has a couple of young midfielders that can make or break their season. The first is Luciano Acosta, now a permanent member of the squad after he was signed from Boca Juniors. Acosta had many moments of brilliance for the Black and Red last season. His eight assists led the team and he also contributed three goals. He is a wonderful piece to place in the number ten role who can also step forward and play some striker. He is only 22 years old, so he represents both the present and future of the club.
The other main youth prospect is homegrown rookie Ian Harkes. The son of American legend John Harkes could see valuable minutes in the midfield. He could make a natural central partner for Acosta or as a stout defensive midfielder. Whether he starts right away remains to be seen, but he should be able to work his way into the team on a regular basis.
If both of these players play well, D.C. United could not only have a strong 2017, but bright future as well.
Which Experienced Players Age Well?
D.C. United does have a generous mix of players on the other side of 30 that had strong seasons last year. Patrick Nyarko had four goals and five assists last year from the left wing. Lloyd Sam started 14 games after coming over in a midseason trade. Bobby Boswell was a rock in defense who started 30 times. Likely starter in defensive midfield Marcelo Sarvas is the oldest player on the team at 35.
All of these players have to be considered on the decline, and all three of them could play valuable minutes this year. Sam and Nyarko very well could be the starting wingers and Boswell might be the starting center back next to Steve Birnbaum. Sarvas will get the bulk of the playing time until Harkes is ready to jump in. United will have to hope that the effects of aging don’t rear their ugly heads throughout the summer. If they do, the wide attack could disappear and the defense could turn leaky.
Can Patrick Mullins Score All Season?
Patrick Mullins was D.C. United’s second leading goal scorer last season. He had eight goals in only 15 appearances after coming over from New York City FC. That’s a wonderful goal scoring rate over about half a season. The trouble is, Mullins is likely going to step up and start full time for the first time in his career. His previous seasons with New York City and New England have not been quite as productive.
The biggest challenge for Mullins will be translating that goal scoring over less than half a season of action into a full season of threatening striker play. If he can do that, the D.C. United attack will have one extra weapon to play with. If he proves to be unable to handle the increased workload, the attack could be without a spearhead up front and will probably suffer for it.