By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy
Is 2020 D.C. United’s year (at last)? Here’s what you need to know to start the season off right!
*Subject to updates
Goalkeepers: Earl Edwards Jr., Bill Hamid, Chris Seitz
Defenders: Steven Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Oniel Fisher, Joseph Mora, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Donovan Pines
Midfielders: Paul Arriola (injured – ACL), Yamil Asad, Emmanuel Boateng, Russell Canouse, Edison Flores, Julian Gressel, Federico Higuaín (anticipated), Felipe Martins, Junior Moreno, Moses Nyeman, Kevin Paredes, Ulises Segura, Griffin Yow
Forwards: Ola Kamara
D.C. United made some bold moves in the offseason, signing solid players that are sure to bolster their attack. Here are the Black-and-Red’s key 2020 signings!
Yamil Asad, the first player to score a goal at Audi Field, returns to the District after a season-long absence. Previously on loan to Atlanta United then D.C. United from Vélez Sarsfield, he was officially signed to the Black-and-Red on September 17, 2019, for the 2020 season.
Edison Flores comes to D.C. United from Liga MX club Morelia for a club-record transfer fee of $5 million, topping the amount paid for English superstar Wayne Rooney. Flores has been a key contributor to the Peruvian National Team both in the 2018 World Cup and Copa America. With an impressive resume, the DP will surely bring excitement to D.C.’s attack.
Former Atlanta United player, Julian Gressel, signed a long-term contract through 2023 with D.C. United. Acquired on January 21, in exchange for $650,000 in 2020 Allocation Money and $100,000 in 2021 Allocation Money, if Gressel meets certain performance incentives Atlanta may be owed additional compensation. A league leader in assists, Gressel will be a boon to the Black-and-Red’s attack led by forward Ola Kamara, a proven goal scorer.
Federico ‘Pipa’ Higuaín
According to Steve Goff at the Washington Post and Pablo Mauer of The Athletic, D.C. United will be bringing veteran player Federico Higuaín on board as a player-coach. Higuaín would arrive in D.C. after suffering an ACL tear in 2019 and subsequently being let go by the Columbus Crew. Higuaín’s experience as a number 10 would provide an option for off the bench coverage of new signing Edison Flores, while his brush with injury makes him an ideal mentor for a recovering Paul Arriola.
The Black-and-Red said goodbye to several supporter favorites at the end of 2019. Here are some notable departures and what they are up to now.
Picked up by Liga MX’s Atlas, Argentine offensive midfielder Acosta is settling in at his new club. Acosta’s famous partnership with Wayne Rooney, dubbed ‘Lucharoo’ by supporters, will be missed on the pitch at Audi Field.
Veteran MLS forward, Quincy Amarikwa is focusing on working with business owners through his company EVLV while preparing to enter into his period of free agency. Amarikwa continues to mentor players 1-on-1 as a mental strength coach. He is the host of the #AskASoccerPro Show (which airs every Thursday on the Perfect Soccer Instagram account) and has recently interviewed USMNT legend Alexi Lalas and Sean Johnson, goalkeeper for NYCFC and the USMNT.
Leo Jara is another player who returns to his club after a loan with D.C. United. Currently Jara is back at Boca Juniors in the Argentine Primera División.
Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez
Attacking midfielder Rodríguez won’t grace the Black-and-Red’s pitch in 2020, having returned to Estudiantes. D.C. was unable to reach an agreement with Estudiantes on a transfer fee, which signaled the departure of the creative Argentine.
With a too good to refuse offer of a player-coach position at Championship club Derby County, Wayne Rooney went back across the pond to England to be closer to family and friends. His stint at D.C. United came to an end earlier than anticipated, but it turns out supporters may see Rooney’s new team face off against the Black-and-Red later in the season. Rooney’s tenure under Phillip Cocu will set him up nicely to take over a head coach role in the future.
Homegrown midfielder Chris Durkin remains on loan to Belgian club Sint-Truidense V.V. from D.C. United. Durkin scored his first goal for the club back in February during a match against Eupen.
D.C. United has a new broadcast partner and supporters are heaving a sigh of relief! All D.C. matches (with the exception of those that will be nationally broadcast through MLS) will be shown on WJLA 24/7 (in HD where available), a channel owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Everyone’s favorite play-by-play announcer Dave Johnson will be returning, and hopefully using his signature, ‘it’s in the net,’ more often than not. Former D.C. United player, Devon McTavish, will provide color commentary, while the club’s own Claudia Pagan will cover the match from the sidelines.
You can tune in to WJLA 24/7 from these channels:
- Comcast: 808 HD | 28 SD
- Cox: 1008 HD | 8 SD
- DirecTV: 8
- Dish Network: 8
- FiOS: 508 HD | 8 SD
- Open Band: 8 SD
- RCN: 608 HD | 308 SD
- U.S. Capitol: 48 SD (20510 & 20515 only)
D.C. United will also be streaming matches on the website, including the home opener!
Paul Arriola tore his ACL in a preseason match against Orlando City SC. Unfortunately, this injury will see Arriola out of action for D.C. United and the USMNT for six to nine months. Arriola underwent successful reconstruction surgery on February 24 under the care of Dr. Chris Annunziata of OrthoVirginia and is currently in physical therapy.
Off Season Notable Happenings
Paul Arriola AND Bill Hamid both received call ups to the USMNT training camp. Hamid has not had a call up since November of 2018, despite leading the league with his save percentage and tying for most shutouts in 2019.
What’s New at Audi Field
Safe standing has been installed in supporters’ sections at Audi Field much to the delight of… everyone. This upgrade will let the D.C. supporters focus on bringing a supercharged atmosphere to every home match.
The field isn’t looking it’s most glamourous these days. However, pitch replacement will be happening toward the end of March after the D.C. Defenders XFL team has their last game. Let’s hope the field plays better than it looks.
D.C. United have taken significant measures to bolster their attack, notably adding Edison Flores, Julian Gressel, and Yamil Asad to the mix. A strong attacking front, complete with proven playmakers who will be able to ally with goal scorer Ola Kamara will hopefully help D.C. remedy last season’s lack of finishing acumen.
A point of concern is a lean defense, with little depth to rely on as the 2020 season progresses. While goalkeeper Bill Hamid and defenders, Fred Brilliant and Steven Birnbaum are arguably the best in the league, the Black-and-Red don’t have much in the way of backup in the event of the unexpected.
D.C. United has made it clear that they are willing to invest, but will it pay dividends with the Black-and-Red advancing in the MLS Cup Playoffs?
The season starts February 29, when D.C. United faces off against the Colorado Rapids at Audi Field.
As always… Vamos United.
Featured image: Sarah Kallassy
Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy