DC United: Feeling a Draft

OK, assuming Onalfo will get to follow his plan and stick to his stated desires to play a 4-4-2, let’s see where the holes in roster can be filled intelligently from the draft.

Looking at the current starters and depth, DC has an obvious hole at forward now that Emilio was forced overboard, but there’s no chance a player of his caliber is replaced by the draft. However, United could seriously use a good backup forward as their only fallback right now is Quaranta (who is needed in midfield) and Boyzzz or maybe Fred. Not pleasant options should a serious injury arise, or the shiny new forward that United will buy with Emilio’s money not pan out (shudder).

In midfield, now that it seems increasingly apparent Gomez is a goner, United’s four best midfielders are Quaranta, Fred, Simms and probably Castillo. So, DC is likely decent on the outsides, but thin. Quaranta backed up by Boyzzz and maybe Mctavish or Shipalane here and there is OK by MLS standards, especially if Q stays very healthy and doesn’t go to the World Cup. Plus, Castillo and Wallace should be OK on the left assuming Castillo adjusts to MLS well enough (and if not Fred can play there certainly). Anyway, you can live with those options on the wing.

However, the central pairing relies on Fred and Simms playing a lot better than they did last year. Which is possible, but not enough so to stake another season on. Szetela Barklage and maybe Wallace or DiRaimondo could be X-factors, but again, there’s not enough there to really feel good about, especially if Szetela’s off field problems continue to derail his career. Quaranta and Simms would actually be a serviceable central midfield, but Santino can’t keep getting bounced around and if he’s moved inside, that leaves a gaping hole on the right that maybe Fred can fill, but maybe not. However, bottom line, a seriously good central midfielder out of the draft that you could stake your season on is unlikely, so perhaps a trade or a modest signing could solve this problem more effectively than the draft.

Which brings us to the defense where there are some serious concerns and the draft is often the best place to find economical solutions. Jakovic is the class of DC’s defensive corps and he and James make a fairly decent central pairing assuming they both build on their pretty good first year. However, there is no depth to speak of behind them. Vaughn can play there in a pinch and so can McTavish, but if either plays there for any length of time, DC is in real trouble. So, a backup central defender from the draft is a must, or possibly a trade or a simply buying a more reliable MLS player if there’s still money floating around. Then James and the new guy could duke it out. But, a good central defender could be found in the draft for certain.

The outside slots are a concern as well, even if Namoff comes back healthy. A four back system in MLS simply has to get production both ways out of those outside backs. Namoff has the skills, but he is not fast and has been reluctant in the past to really get forward well. Vaughn is a little better, but is not as good a defender as Namoff, and McTavish also could do the job if he plays a lot better than he has the last two years (maybe by concentrating on this one position for a change). But, overall some serious concerns, and that’s the good side of the defense.

The left is in far worse shape. Burch is the worst left back in the league now that Heaps has retired, simple as that. Wallace could be better, but his defense stunk last year although his offense was spectacular. Habarugira is a possibility but still raw and unfamiliar with MLS for the most part, so he’s not really a good bet either. Clearly a left back is needed and can certainly be found in the draft.

Finally, the goalkeeping position is unsettled too. Kocic and Hamid are not ready yet, and Wicks won’t even be recovered until March and might not be the answer anyway. However, a starting quality goalkeeper out of the draft is unlikely anyway.

So, to recap. DC needs a starting forward and a backup forward, a backup central defender, a goalkeeper, and a left back, pretty much in that order. They could also use a better a central midfielder, and probably a right back too if possible. The forward, central midfielder and goalkeeper will be bought or traded for, so out of this draft they need a backup forward, backup central defender and a left back.
Good forwards who can contribute pretty soon go quick in the draft nowadays, so DC should use that seventh pick to snag the best forward on their charts, and that doesn’t mean a project player who’s young and won’t contribute for years no matter how good he is. McIerney, for example is definitely a good project but he’s butt young and DC can’t really wait for him to pan out. If DC drafts him, then you know Kasper and Payne are back to their old tricks always looking for the next breakout young talent, when what they need is a solid pro who will step in right away and be competent and reasonably consistent, not potentially spectacular but inconsistent and young.

Now, it may be tempting to take a central defender in that seventh slot, but unless it’s the absolute perfect player that DC has coveted all along, they should avoid that urge. Defenders are much easier to find than competent forwards, and Onalfo’s track record suggest he can coach almost anyone into being a competent backup defender if that’s his natural position.However, if there is not a really solid player available at that seventh pick, they should trade it for a veteran pro some team is willing to sacrifice for whatever draftee they need.

Then, United will simply be on the sidelines until their third and fourth round crapshoot picks to hopefully fill those defender slots. The only way I can see them making a move on draft day is if one of their top desires drops into the second round and then they might dangle a player like Fred, Szetela, or McTavish for some team that needs to fill a hole and doesn’t want any more projects from the draft.

Bottom line, DC should be in the business of team building by going for conservative picks of players who actually play the positions they need filled, and who can play sooner rather than later even if it means sacrificing some top end talent that is years from being realized. If they go with some 17 year old wonderkid or draft anymore left wings for example, just because they are the best player available, then I think DC will still be doing what they’ve been doing for the past eight years, and probably getting what they’ve been getting for the past eight years.

Now remind me again, how many good drafts have they had the past 8 years? How many starters or contributing players have they unearthed? Seems to me, taking a different more conservative approach might be the way to go.

3 replies
  1. rke
    rke says:

    Looks like they drafted a keeper in round 1. Some guy named Troy.

    You listed Fred as an alternative for several thin positions. They all just got that much thinner.

    But I’d say you’re still right about the draft — go for some serviceable defenders. But stakes just got a lot higher for our scouts south of the border… We’ve got a lot of room under the salary cap.

  2. Chris_B
    Chris_B says:

    It makes sense (at least in the short term) if the brain staff has some choice signings in the works with some of that mad-Emilio money. We have a keeper now and the beer man won’t be so scared. (Mark my words – Fred has a 15 goal season).

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