Thursday, November 12, 2009

RIVER OR LIFE: Defensive Midfielders

The voting for attacking midfielders has gone pretty much as anticipated so far, with heavy support for three fan favorites in Quaranta, Pontius, and Barklage, and an obvious dissatisfaction with Fred and Allen. The only moderate surprise to me has been that Gomez and Szetela are not both closer to the 50/50 mark. Moving on now to the other half of the midfield...

As expected, Clyde Simms led the team in minutes played for the second year in a row, and was a critical part of our midfield. Obviously Simms' main role was in breaking up the attack of our opponents, but he wasn't asked to do as much offensively this year, which was a step down from his 2 goals and 2 assists in 2008.

After playing just 15 minutes last season, Ben Olsen came back stronger than most of us would have imagined in 2009. Although he seems to have lost some pace, Olsen's calmness and high soccer IQ served the team well as he often acted as the leader of the midfield. He has expressed interest in playing again next season. Now if we could just work on that temper...

At just 20 years of age, Rodney Wallace showed immense talent and potential in his 25 starts (tied for third on the team). Wallace split time between left wing and defensive midfielder, playing both roles with speed, aggression, and skill, if not always tactical awareness. He might even get more of a chance at left back in the future.

Returning from an uneventful stint in France, DC United's 2008 second round draft choice Andrew Jacobson played well when given the opportunity to fill in for Olsen or Simms in central midfield. Jacobson also demonstrated that he has the ability to shoot a heluva long ball, but needs to work on his accuracy (8 shots, 1 shot on goal).

Devon McTavish saw time as a right wing, central midfielder, and central defender this year, but didn't really catch on as a regular player in any of these roles. While he's never been mistaken for the most physically skilled player on the field, McTavish is an asset for his versatility, and has always had a knack for getting himself into good positions, while making very few mistakes defensively.

The former fourth overall draft pick John DiRaimondo did little to impress for United while playing in early Open Cup matches and earning just 45 minutes of MLS action. On the plus side, he did score the game winning goal for the Richmond Kickers in the USL-2 championship match. Is it possible that he'll be spending even more time with them next year?

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