D.C. United Trying To Get Back To The Playoffs But Challenges Await

Phil Shore@@PShore15Correspondent IMarch 27, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 10: Jamie Moreno #99 of DC United plays the ball against the New York Red Bulls during their game at Giants Stadium on August 10, 2008 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
Andy Marlin/Getty Images

One of the most successful MLS teams of all time, D.C. United hasn’t even been to the playoffs the past two seasons.

It won’t be any easier for them in 2010 as some key players left the club.

Gone are former MLS MVP Christian Gomez, 2009 team leading scorer Luciano Emilio, midfield maestro Fred, and 12 season D.C. United veteran Ben Olsen.

There is also a new head coach, as Curt Onalfo replaces the fired Tom Soehn.

How can the team possibly cope?

D.C. still boasts striker and MLS all-time leading goal scorer Jamie Moreno.

The Bolivian International has scored 131 goals in 11 seasons in MLS, and is also fourth all-time in assists with 102. He’s had a good preseason and if he stays healthy and fresh he could wreck havoc on a lot of opposing defenses.

Supporting the elder statesman of the club are two players that were nominated for the 2009 Rookie of the Year award, Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace.

Pontius is a versatile player who can either slot in as the second forward or in the midfield. He also showed extreme poise last year scoring some extremely important goals, including putting one in the net against the Los Angeles Galaxy in his MLS debut.

Wallace is also able to play multiple positions both in the midfield and on defense. He was third on the team in minutes played. Known as a tough defender, Wallace also has an offensive spark to his game.

They may not be able to put Wallace’s full arsenal of talent on display however, as a lack of defensive depth to start the season plagues the team.

Starting left fullback Marc Burch has a foot injury and Bryan Namoff is still working his way back from concussion issues. It will be new starting goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who is still fighting for the third goalkeeper’s roster spot on the U.S. National Team heading to the World Cup, who will be responsible for keeping the patchwork defense organized.

D.C.’s x-factor will be attacking midfielder Santino Quaranta.

Once a promising young starlet for United, Quaranta had problems with injuries and drugs that forced him out of D.C. and into oblivion. However, after straightening himself out, Quaranta returned to D.C. in 2008 with a vengeance.

In 2008 he set a career-high in minutes played (1,963), and last season, despite missing eight games, he led the team and set a career-high in assists with six.

In the summer of 2009 he also scored his first goal with the U.S. National Team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Still only 25-years-old, Quaranta says he still has a lot left to prove. D.C. will need him to be really creative and dangerous to take the pressure off the defense.

D.C. United enjoyed a good preseason, culminating in winning the Carolina Challenge Cup. Momentum and morale are both high, but the club and its offense need to get out to a hot start to keep things moving in the proper direction.

Otherwise they run the risk of having to play too much defense and really putting the pressure on a group that is not 100 percent together, putting United in a hole early.