2015 MLS Team Preview: D.C. United


The comeback kids are back. After an atrocious 2013 season, D.C. United are back at the top of the Eastern Conference and among the top clubs in MLS. 2014 brought new success for one of the league’s most storied clubs. But can they do it again in 2015?

Quick Numbers

2014 Record: 17-9-8, 59 points

Conference Standing: 1st Place

League Standing:3rd Place

Finish: Lost to the New York Red Bulls in the Conference Semi-finals

Top Scorer: Fabian Espindola (11) and Luis Silva (11)

Top Playmaker: Espindola and Silva

Greatest Moment: Midfielder/ Forward Chris Rolfe made a great first impression with D.C. United supporters, scoring in his first match with the club.

Although the club probably had many more convincing wins in 2014 none was more important than their 2-0 victory against the New England Revolution. Even though the club was without goalkeeper Bill Hamid, this match helped set the tone for the rest of the season.

Key Players:

Fabian Espindola: D.C. United coach Ben Olsen had many pleasant surprises last season but perhaps the biggest surprise was that of Fabian Espindola. Acquired last season to be the Robin to Eddie Johnson’s Batman, Espindola ended up taking on the lion’s share of the attacking duties early on.

Although 11 goals is not an exceptionally number of goals it was his passing ability that really made the difference for this club. Players like Chris Rolfe (6 goals,) Luis Silva (11 goals,) and to a lesser extent Eddie Johnson (7 goals) all benefited from Espindola’s unselfishness.

His 6 game suspension will certainly affect Ben Olsen’s attack plans for 2015. Much like last year where Olsen used the CONCACAF Champions League as a way to give minutes to players suspended in MLS, look for Espindola to be featured in the club’s two matches against Alajuelense. Until then, the platoon of Silva, Rolfe, and Chris Pontius will need to hold down the fort.

Luis Silva: Silva had a breakout season for United in 2014, scoring a career-best 11 goals and tallying 4 assists. Olsen likes to use a 4-4-1-1 with Silva sitting right behind Espindola. When Espindola drives deep into the box he generally brings a couple of defenders with him. So when makes the pass back Silva has space to hammer home his shot.

There is very little that Silva needs to improve upon in 2015 other than staying healthy. A hamstring injury at the end of the 2014 season took him out of the MLS Playoffs last season. He has yet to feature in the preseason, raising fears that he might not be available early on.

Bill Hamid- 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Do I need to say more?

Perry Kitchen and Steve Birnbaum- Kitchen and Birnbaum represent the spine of the D.C. United defense last season which held opponents to just 37 goals last year (tied for lowest in MLS). Although one could Bobby Boswell and Sean Franklin in here as well, Kitchen and Birnbaum are now fighting for spots on the US Men’s National Team and the Gold Cup. Another strong year at RFK Stadium would help their chances.

Key Departure

Lewis Neal- The glue of D.C. United the past three seasons, Neal was picked up by Orlando City SC during the Expansion Draft. Aisde from his flair for the dramatic (Neal scored the game-winning goal in the 2013 US Open Cup Final and the playoff-clinching goal against Crew SC the year prior) he was a utility player that could play multiple positions in the midfield.

In his absence, D.C. United will look for similar play from recent acquisitions Markus Halsti and Michael Farfan. Although Halsti will likely take over for Davy Arnaud in the defensive midfield, he has shown with Malmo in the UEFA Champions League that he can go forward. Farfan will be used throughout the entire midfield much like he was with the Philadelphia Union and should provide a spark off of the bench.

The Big Question:Can They Stay Healthy?

Part of what made D.C. United such a successful team in 2014 was that the club had very few injuries. Although the injuries did pile up at the end of the season with Silva and Rolfe missing time, this team had very few lengthy injuries last season. One could argue that Pontius’ injury was severe but given his history the team is kind of prepared for him to miss time.

It is very rare for a team to go two straight years without suffering a massive number of injuries so it will be interesting to see how the club reacts when they lose a top player for an extended period of time. The club does have many young promising players on their bench (including 18-year old Jamaican international forward Michael Seaton). But these players will have to learn on the fly as this club has all of the tools to win the MLS Cup.

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