With the return of Christian Gomez and the tantalizing prospect of Ben Olsen making a significant on field contribution this season, it really does seem like the team is looking to recapture some of that magic circa 2004-7, but even while looking back, the team has also made some potentially great moves for the future.
So, in the same vein as yesterday’s look at the forwards, let’s have a go at the midfielders signed to date: Christian Gomez, Ben Olsen, Fred, Santino Quaranta, Clyde Simms, Andrew Jacobsen, Brandon Barklage
First of all, any analysis of United’s midfield situation has to begin with the question marks around Christian Gomez, Fred and Santino Quaranta. Clyde Simms is as solid as it gets in MLS and is beyond reproach unless you’re expecting him to be Maurice Edu or Michael Bradley. Clearly, he is neither of those players, but then again those guys won’t be helping out any MLS teams this year either. Comparing Clyde the Glide to anyone else currently on a roster shows him to be perfectly capable to fulfill his role nicely.
But, last year Gomez had a rocky year in purgatory, Fred performed way below his standards, and Santino is not really a midfielder no matter how good he is at playing there. All three of these guys are also a bit unbalanced in that they favor offense way more than defense, and neither of the wide players actually like to stay wide. So, there are some concerns for sure.
However, that said, assuming the chemistry comes together, and there’s absolutely no reason to think it won’t since these guys have all played together extremely well in the past, this midfield, along with Moreno and Emilio will absolutely shred the typical MLS defense. In 2007, the holy trinity of Emilio, Moreno and Gomez merely scored 37 goals and 16 assists, while Fred and Olsen chipped in 14 more goals and 15 assists. Clearly, their talent is easily on par with the best in the league overall, even if you assume Ben doesn’t play a minute and is replaced by Santino only having another decent year like he had last year (5 goals, 4 a) when if fact, he may well break out into the double digit realm his talent has always predicted.
I think there’s no question Gomez is still as good as it gets in his role, comparable to DeRosario, Blanco, Schelotto, anyone in terms of his impact on winning games, despite his fall from grace in Colorado. I do take that a little on faith as it is disturbing that Colorado shopped him around so aggressively, but knowing Gomez, hearing all the things being said and seeing him already having an impact in beating Puerto Rico the other day, I think it’s safe to say he can play in the top third of the league at the very least for one more year. The real problem with him comes at what to do about him for next year.
As for Fred, 7 goals, 8 assists in 2007, 2 goals and four assists in 2008. The league may have found him out, but I’m not so sure about that either. He had injuries and transition issues, as well as multiple positions to play that seriously affected his play. This year his role will likely be pretty streamlined, and I think he is back on par with the likes of Robbie Rogers 6g, 3a, Brad Davis 3g 8a, Van den Bergh 7g 5a, Huckerby 6g 3a, etc.
Santino easily fits into the upper tier of wide midfielders too. Rogers as mentioned, Eddie Gaven 3g 2a, Mapp 2 g 8a, Mullan 3g 5a, Ronnie O’brien 4 g 6 a, Thorrington 5g 2 a, Colin Clarke 5g 3 a, Stuart Holden 3g 4 a, etc. None of them are startlingly more productive than Quaranta is, and I maintain he is likely to exceed his totals from last year simply by personal growth and being on a better team overall. Plus, if you notice, none of those guys from around the league being compared to Fred and Santino are that much better defenders, nor are they necessarily known for staying wide either. Bottom line, DC’s starting midfield should easily be one of the best in the league this year.
Plus, DC seems to have some very good options should injuries rear their ugly head again. Andrew Jacobsen has had a great pre-season by all accounts and made Joe Vide expendable which is saying something. I could easily see him being a Brad Evans, Seth Stammler, Kyle Beckerman type, but if he keeps improving maybe even continuing on to Ricardo Clarke or even Maurice Edu level as he was that highly thought of in college.
Another interesting option is Ben Olsen, who could seriously contribute some valuable games here and there this year after being left for dead last year. If he can do that anywhere near his previous ability, United’s expectations go up dramatically. Even a bottom of the bench option like Brandon Barklage seems promising. He has been compared to a Josh Gros type worker bee which something United could certainly use, especially if he pans out as well as Gros did overall.
Plus, aside from that, all those converted midfielders playing defense last year, as well as young forwards and draft picks all could pitch in at midfield too. Khumalo and especially Pontius could easily play in midfield. Rodney Wallace too is raw, but should be ready for some minutes, surely. But, even better a guy like McTavish who I think is really better suited as a 13th man, jack of all trades, now that he isn’t likely to be a defensive starter can be freed up to cover for Simms or either wide player quite nicely if push came to shove.
So, there you have it on every level, the midfield looks to be in very good shape, easily as good as anyone in the league. Along with a forward cohort that looks to be equally as strong if not stronger, United should be in great shape from the midfield forward. I think there’s little question this group will capture a good level of chemistry right off the bat and their talent is unquestioned, especially as there’s seems to be enough depth all over the field that some of the older guys will have their minutes managed quite easily, which with the lighter schedule will already be less of a concern.
Unfortunately, I think that’s where the bloom comes off the rose. A grim look at the defense tomorrow, as well as a wee bit of a preview of the tournament DC will be playing in Charleston starting Saturday night.