16 games in to the season, with a two week break from MLS action, I can think of no better time to deliver to you the second annual installment of the Mid-Season Review. In this space over the next 10 or so days, we will take a look at the Acquisitions, Departures, and Trades that United has made since the end of the 2008 season, and then wrap it all up with a Summary. In each category, we will rank the moves in order of how important they are to the club.
1. The biggest impact addition for United in 2009 I think has been Dejan Jakovic. Brought in by way of Red Star Belgrade and the Canadian National Team, this Croatian finally gives us the reliable center back that we've been missing since the departure of Nelsen. Does anybody remember the name Roger? And how upset we all were that United wasn't able to sign this 34 year old Brazilian? I guess that worked out ok for us in the end. I don't even want to imagine how different this season would be without Jakovic. Sort of a scary thought to imagine that Janicki and McTavish might have been competing for our lone starting center back position.
2. With 4 goals and 2 assists on the year, Chris Pontius is the leading candidate for MLS's Rookie of the Year. His versatility, combined with his energy and his attacking prowess, has turned this young American from UCSB into a rising star. Pontius has played in every match, with 14 starts, and has seen time at striker, right wing, left wing, CAM, and CDM.
3. Fulfilling the required quota of having two Terrapins on the roster at all times so my blog background can be balanced, United's other first round draft pick this year was Rodney Wallace. This guy might be the most athletic player on the team, and is also versatile enough to play multiple positions. Wallace has appeared most often at left wing, being a dangerous threat in the box, but has also played well as a CDM next to Simms. I'm also hoping that the team will give Wallace another try at left back in a 4-4-2 formation at some point in the season.
4. With 5 starts in 10 appearances, Andrew Jacobson has done a decent job filling in for the often-injured Ben Olsen in the middle of the park.
5. Rookie Milos Kocic seems to have come in second in our three-man goalkeeper competition. He's shown some decent potential in 2 league starts, and even earned 1 clean sheet in our first match of the Open Cup. I'm happy to have Kocic as our #2 keeper, but it's way too early to tell if he'll ever be a true #1.
6. Reserve forward Ange N'Silu has very quietly earned 1 goal and 1 assist in 8 appearances for United. I worry though about his ability to adapt to the team, as he doesn't speak a lick of English, and has too often seemed to be on the wrong page from his attacking counterparts. United has had a tendency the past couple of years to cut any reserve forwards (Doe, Kpene, Addlery) at the conclusion of each season, so we'll see if N'Silu survives into 2010.
7. Midfielder Brandon Barklage is well on his way to becoming a fan favorite. Even in just his few brief appearances with the first team, Barklage has demonstrated huge amounts of energy. He's scored one goal in each of our two Open Cup matches. United has had a tendency the past couple of years to cut any reserve draft picks (Cordeiro, Kpene, North) at the conclusion of each season, so we'll see if Barklage survives into 2010.
8. Ok so I get that it's a good idea to fill up the developmental roster with a guy like John DiRaimondo, but I don't quite get using a valuable senior roster spot on Anthony Peters. Each has seen very brief bits of time in the Open Cup, but no appearances during the regular season. Unless the team is actually making a profit by loaning these guys out Richmond and other USL clubs, they will probably be off the team and playing full time in that league next year.