A response to the MLS ExtraTime Podcast
Here in D.C., there are many men and women among us who answer the call to defend what we hold dear. For some, they vow to support and defend the Constitution against enemies both foreign and domestic. For others, they answer a similar sacred decree – to support and defend D.C. United against enemies both foreign and domestic.
Unfortunately the time has come to defend our beloved United against an unlikely domestic foe: the MLS ExtraTime Podcast.
“Doesn’t look great”
“Likely to take a signficant step backwards”
These phrases were used to describe the state of D.C. United in 2022. In order to refute these unsubstantiated claims, let’s break things down one-by-one.
MLS ExtraTime Allegation: D.C. United will NOT be a playoff team in 2022.
Rebuttal: In year one under Hernan Losada, DCU finished with 47 points; just 1 point behind RBNY for the final playoff spot. Considering the significant changes to DCU’s playing style – the 47 point mark in 2021 was a nice improvement from 2020. In 2022, DCU will be in the second year of Losada’s system; eliminating the growing pains we saw in 2021. The expectations from Losada are now clear, and the players will know exactly what is expected and needed. Additionally, in 2021 both of DCU’s Designated Players (DPs) recorded a combined total of only 2,338 minutes and contributed to only 16 (combined 8 goals, 8 assists) of DCU’s 56 goals. With a slew of new players arriving to D.C. between now and summer, minutes played by DCU’s most impactful players will almost certainly rise in 2022. While DP minutes don’t necessarily equal wins, increased minutes by DCU’s best players will be the difference between 47 points (not playoffs) and 48 points (playoffs). Since 2017, the average number of points needed for Eastern Conference playoff qualification has been 48.25. Knowing this, a target of 49 points (only 2 more points than 2021) is certainly attainable for this DCU team.
MLS ExtraTime Allegation: D.C. United is lacking top end talent.
DCU’s new DP, Taxi Fountas, has tallied double digit goals in each of the last three seasons with Rapid Vienna; including an incredible 2019 season where he scored 20 goals in 29 appearances and was named Rapid Vienna player of the year. Fountas’ record is undeniable, which includes consistent play in the Champions League and Europa League, where he netted against Arsenal.
DCU’s newest loan signing (with option to buy), Michael Estrada, is currently the 5th leading scorer in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying. Estrada’s 6 goals in 15 games puts him one goal behind Neymar and Luis Suarez, ties him on goals with Lionel Messi, and has him one goal above Alexis Sanchez….pretty good company. If that’s not ‘top end talent’, then I don’t know what is. Additionally, at age 25 years old, Estrada has 76 club goals. His record for club and country is VERY impressive compared to many of MLS’ best forwards; and will turn out to be a massive signing in MLS.
Outside of Fountas and Estrada, DCU has a number of exceptional players returning to the lineup, including Andy Najar - whom the ExtraTime Podcast admitted was one of the most unique players in the league, *If healthy. You cannot predict DCU’s 2022 season assuming that everyone will get injured again. As of the pre-season friendly against RBNY, Najar is healthy and playing. As such, we should expect another great season from Najar in 2022.
The same goes for DP, Edison Flores - who has shown well for Peru during World Cup Qualifying; scoring in back-to-back matches. He also scored in the DCU friendly against RBNY. Yes, Flores has been injured in the past… but as of now, he’s healthy, and scoring goals. Even if Flores only plays half of the season, he will likely exceed all numbers from last year… which again, took DCU within one point of the playoffs. A healthy Flores has the ability to be a difference maker in this league.
At the wingback position, DCU can compete with just about anybody. Julian Gressel was a standout for the Black and Red last year, and was nominated for the league’s Most Valuable Player and Comeback Player of the Year. DCU’s improvements in the forward positions will give Gressel even more weapons to target in 2022; likely increasing his goal contribution – which was very good in 2021.
At left wingback, Brad Smith replaces wonderkid Kevin Paredes. While Smith is not a league superstar, he is arguably a better left wingback than Kevin Paredes at this exact moment in time. Will Paredes become a global superstar? I say yes. Is Paredes a better left wingback in MLS than Brad Smith right now? I say no. Smith’s experience, style of play, and strength could actually be an improvement from Paredes in 2022.
Perhaps the player I am most excited to see get regular minutes is Moses Nyeman. The ExtraTime crew admitted that Nyeman could be the next $10 million player to come from MLS. If Nyeman develops, he could very well be an MLS top talent.
And oh yeah, DCU still have Ola Kamara on the roster… last year’s Golden Boot runner-up.
Lastly, DCU have openly stated that the club are looking to fill their third DP spot between now and Summer 2022. Again, this only strengthens the idea that DCU can realistically add points onto their 2021 total.
MLS ExtraTime Allegation: Hernan Losada might be asking too much of his players
Rebuttal: The idea from ExtraTime was that the new coach and system spurred his players to give 100% in 2021; but over time, that effort and belief in the system will decline, starting in 2022. To the contrary, the 2021 season solidified that Losada’s system will work 2022. After all, this is a system that got DCU within one point of the playoffs through a tremendous amount of injuries and little input from DPs. Losada has brought in ‘his guys’ and helped reshape the team this offseason. From everything we can see from camp and through interviews, it seems like the squad are all in on Losada. If the ExtraTime team would like to further clarify this claim, we are open for dialogue.
On paper, DCU has actually improved from 2021 to 2022. Going into the opener, all players are healthy and the front office is actively looking to sign a third DP.
Further, two of our attackers may be playing significant roles for their countries at the World Cup in Qatar – which will give them all of the incentive to have their best seasons for DCU in 2022.
As we enter the final preparations for the 2022 season, DCU has a lot to look be excited about. Looking at the strength of schedule in February and March, it’s entirely possible that DCU are on top of the Eastern Conference table by the start of April.
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