United adds depth, speed to aging team at SuperDraft

At first glance DC United’s selection of D/M Rodney Wallace (#6 overall pick), F Chris Pontius (#7), G Milos Kocic (#21), D Lyle Adams (#26) and M Brandon Barklage (#36) didn’t go over too well on the various message boards and chat rooms for United’s ever faithful fan base.

Many cries of derision howled out over the fact that Jeremy Hall and Stephen Frei, a can’t miss goalkeeper being compared to current Aston Villa and United States number two keeper Brad Guzan, were left in United’s drafting wake with the selections of Wallace and Pontius.

Not so fast my friend asLee Corso of ESPN football fame is fond of saying. Let’s take a little closer look at what United is doing with these picks. First of all, they increase their team speed with the additons of their two first rounders as well as with pacy outsided defender Adams. Barklage, an unheralded midfielder with an unstoppable engine is being looked upon as a sort of Josh Gros 2.0. And who here wouldn’t agree that Gros was sorely missed in spite of his limited offensive ability.

Secondly, I feel United has ramped up their goalkeeping competition with the addition of the monstrous Kocic from nearby Loyola of Maryland in Baltimore. 6’4″ and athletic and a good pair of hands already has him ahead of Zach Wells in my opinion. Wells was a competent keeper before his arrival at United last season but his confidence was shot early due to self-inflicted wounds in goal as well as a shaky defense in front of him. I’m not sure the start of a new season will jumpstart his MLS career. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Wells released or at least traded by the time the season opens in March.

While it’s true that central defense as of right now is a serious weak spot in a defense that was second worst in MLS last season and completely not up to the task in all of their international appearances, United wasn’t in a position to add any quality central defensive help. Omar Gonzalez was selected #3 by the Los Angeles Galaxy, a team in even more desperate defensive straits than United is, and United really couldn’t give away the opportunity to add two quality players with their 1st round picks at #6 and #7.

Besides, you don’t draft above a players abilities, which United would have done had they taken fan favorite A.J. De La Garza from Maryland or South Florida’s international defender Yohance Marshall (who played so poorly at the Combine that he wasn’t drafted at all after being projected as a late first round/early second round selection). Notre Dame defender Matt Besler was selected by Kansas City just after United’s two first round picks, but United were not interested in him.

So how does this help United? Well, for one thing, none of these players are going into the starting X1 unless their is a freakish rash of injuries in pre-season (not out of the realm of possibility) or someone simply plays out of their skin and forces Soehn to put him in the lineup. Conventional wisdom tells us that the veteran players will get the nod, even if a rookie player wows the coaching staff prior to the opener in Los Angeles on March 22nd.

These players will help United because they add quality depth, something that was sorely lacking last season when injuries decimated this team midway through the year. With that being said, these rookies still need to win spots on this team. With the rosters being reduced from 28 players to 24 this off-season and with the Reserve League being discontinued, Senior roster spots (20 of the 24 available) are at a premium. And with so many players having poor seasons last year, nothing is set in concrete in terms of who is making the team outside of the obvious players (Moreno, Emilio, Namoff, Fred, Gallardo, etc..)

The only player seemingly safe to make the team is their top pick Wallace, a tall speedy defender with skills that are uncommon in MLS circles. He is a Generation Adidas player that is exempt from the salary cap and will count as one of the 4 non-Senior roster spots.

Pontius is also more likely to make the team as one of the few Senior players to sign a contract with MLS prior to the SuperDraft (as Ryan Cordiero did last season). Kocic, Adams and Barklage will have a more difficult time making the team but I see at least 4 of the 5 picks making the final roster. That of course would mean that a few players will be cut from United who played last season.

You also have to consider any foreign additions United will bring into the team. Gonzalo Peralta has left the team and it’s most unlikely that Gonzalo Martinez and his hefty price tag will be back. Rod Dyachenko is not being brought back. That opens up three roster spots right there. Ben Olsen’s condition is also a key factor. As of right now he plans to go to pre-season training to see how his ankle will respond. I think we should know pretty early how that situation will end up as Ben Olsen has gone on record stating that he would not take up a roster spot on this team if he knows he can’t be 100% useful to the team.

Honduran striker Walter Martinez is said to be coming to United (nothing official yet) perhaps on loan from Marathon which would further cloud an already cluttered forward line on United with Moreno, Emilio, Pontius, Francis Doe, Boyzzz Khumalo and Santino Quaranta in consideration as well.

At the end of the day I think United did themselves well in drafting players that will most likely get some spot duty during the MLS season and probably get some serious minutes in the Open Cup. However, this team still has a glaring need in central defense that has to be addressed or it could be more of the same from last season. One can only hope that Soehn and his braintrust have something up their sleeve to help this situaion.

Time will tell.

Local Players Make Huge Impact on SuperDraft

The DC/Baltimore area was well represented in yesterdays MLS SuperDraft. Included were players who played in college locally as well as home-grown players who played elsewhere.

1st round picks

Omar Gonzalez (Maryland)- Los Angeles Galaxy
Rodney Wallace (Bullis School and Maryland) – DC United
Jeremy Hall (Maryland) – New York Red Bulls
Kevin Alston (Silver Spring and Indiana Univ)- New England
Michael Lahoud (W.T. Woodson and Wake Forest)- Chivas USA

2nd round picks

AJ Delagarza (Bryans Road, MD and Maryland) – Los Angeles Galaxy
Milos Kocic (Loyola, MD)- DC United
Graham Zuisi (Maryland) – Kansas City
Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe (Eleanor Roosevelt and George Mason) – Colorado Rapids

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