Sunday, November 22, 2009

RIVER OR LIFE: Defenders

Continuing the series where we vote "River" for players that we want to see DC United cast away and we vote "Life" for players that we hope will return, let's take a look now at DCU's defenders. I have a feeling this group will prove more interesting than the defensive midfielders, who received mostly favorable ratings.

Voted the team's MVP and defensive player of the year, Bryan Namoff had his most productive season for United in 2009 with 2 goals and 4 assists. Losing Namoff to a concussion late in the season may have been the beginning of the end for United's playoff hopes, but we've heard good indications so far that he will be ready for the start of 2010.

The Canadian/Serbian import Dejan Jakovic was very impressive in his first year with the club, starting every match when healthy and emerging as the leader of our defense. The whole team struggled at times when playing with only 3 in the back, a formation that Jakovic himself expressed some dislike for. It will be interesting to see how he does if given a full season with a running mate in a 4-man back-line.

Despite being the most frequent scapegoat for the team's defensive failures, Marc Burch was the preferred starter at left back for the entirety of the 2009 season. Before this year, I was fond of saying that Burch's play had improved every year since being converted to a left back. This was true in 2007 and 2008, but I'm not so sure it was true in 2009.

Julius James had the honor of being traded for Dwayne DeRosario, but he never really caught on in MLS until joining DC late this season. James had some good games and some bad games, which probably puts him better than average on the scale of central defenders we've seen the past few years.

The acquisition of Avery John was supposed to give Burch some competition at left back, especially since John had done well when playing in a 3-man back-line previously with the Revolution. That competition didn't last long, but John was still able to give the team some veteran defensive depth and fill in when necessary due to injuries.

A former starter for Chivas USA, Lawson Vaughn joined the team in September, and was called on almost immediately to help fill the void at right back that was left due to Namoff's injury. His play was adequate enough to earn him a roster slot with some MLS team next year. But will it be with DC United?

Greg Janicki impressed many of us when joining the team on loan from Pittsburgh late in 2008, but his awful 2009 campaign caused him to be benched, and then to be placed on injured reserve for back spasms that were apparently suffered as a result of sitting on the bench too long. Unfortunately for Janicki, his terrible performance at Marathon may have been his last with the club.

The young and much heralded David Habarugira displayed some quickness and physical ability in his few appearances with United. You would have thought the Burundian International could have earned more appearances for himself when our back-line suffered multiple injuries, but that never materialized. Does anyone else remember the name Ibrahim Koroma? Yeah, I didn't think so.

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