Tampa Bay Sports Day

An idea and an observation

With but two games remaining, DC United has precious little time to give its fans a reason to for hope for 2011. I think that they can do it.

As 2010 has seen the team bump along the bottom of a slough of despond, the players have slowly but consistently improved their shape and vision. Despite a lack of results, the team’s play has steadily improved.

The win in Colorado was historic in its own way and the loss last Saturday did reflect a long stretch of dominance in that game by an already depleted DC United which was missing half its starting defense on international duty. With a return to what has become “normal” player health, the side should perform well.

Now is a good time to try a few experiments to see just who can help next year and how. Let’s start with the epitome of mixed results, Branko Boskovic. He arrived with hopes on United’s part that he might be the creative midfield spark the team has lacked. It didn’t happen.

If his international success as the Montenegro Captain is any indicator, he is clearly a wide midfielder. Why not trade his location with rookie sensation Andy Najar? While the pressure of the “number 10” role is ill suited to a youth, there is really no pressure left in this dismal season. Turn the kid loose and tell him to have fun attacking.

The young Honduran clearly deserves Rookie of the Year honors in MLS and got more than a few votes for DC United’s MVP in the Press Box. There is no down side to seeing what else he can bring to the table.

Flank him with Boskovic and Carlos Varela to give him guidance and back him with the steady Clyde Simms or Stephen King. Move Santino Quaranta to forward with Pablo Hernandez and add a bit of speed to that aspect of the attack.

As the flanks become more contemplative and guileful, the front line gains speed. The forwards’ runs should give Najar a chance to use his own aggressiveness and speed to real advantage. Instead of defending against a Quaranta long cross to a speeding Najar, defenses will have more variety to solve.

To cover for the slower wings, keep the wide defenders further back. Ask Devon McTavish and Jed Zayner to overlap only rarely and focus on maintaining shape in a simpler scheme by trailing their wings.

If the wise wide elders tire, energy is available from Junior Carreiro. Danny Allsopp can add strength to the front line from the bench as well.

Like United, the Chicago Fire are out of postseason play and may well be experimenting themselves. Demonstrating the unusual nature of the 2010 season, the usually competent Fire join the Houston Dynamo and DC in disappointment.

The Dynamo are the only team that DC can catch on points, but the Houston side has two of their seven wins against United, guaranteeing the dregs to DC.

In a league where coaching should be at a premium, several historical heroes have experienced poor seasons. In particular, Houston’s Dom Kinnear and New England’s Steve Nicol have felt the sting of failure while Philadelphia’s Peter Novak at least has a new team to cite for lesser performance.