2022 – What will it bring?
Greetings and welcome to the 2022 MLS season. In case you’ve missed it meet Tyler McTGillivray who’s
been helping to populate our blog (are blogs a thing, still?). Me, I’m Kim Kolb, an old hand around the Screaming Eagles and I helped write the digital version of the Nest Liner (on the old SE website that melted down) after Dave Lifton left for windier pastures some time ago. I also take a lot of the game and crowd pictures that you see in various SE venues. Expect great stuff from Tyler all season and maybe some so-so stuff from me, too.
It’s hard to talk about the 2022 edition of DC United without some mention of the 2021 version. We enjoyed the impact of Hernan Losada’s style and vision, but it was always just a starting point. Quite a few familiar faces are gone, most notably Paul Arriola and Kevin Paredes. While their influence on the field will be missed, they brought quite a bit of profit and financial flexibility to the front office. We’ll see how these moves pan out over time.
But there’s a big addition to the club that we should see in effect starting with the Charlotte FC game. Fitness. Early in the 2021 season the team struggled to balance both the new pressing system of Losada along with the fitness required to implement it. Going into 2022 all returning players know what to expect and had been held accountable all offseason in keeping fit. For a team that didn’t miss the playoffs by much converting an early season 0-1 defeat to a 1-0 win would have been huge.
Another big plus: A first-choice defense. The top 3 choices for center backs are Steve Birnbaum, Brendan Hines-Ike, and Andy Najar. These three played together for EXACTLY 45 minutes in the season finale. Birnbaum started the season injured, Hines-Ike picked up a major injury in July just before Birnbaum returned to duty and Najar’s minutes were heavily managed due to his return from long time injuries. Having all three fit and ready from the first minutes of the season should set a good foundation. Couple that with a returning Julian Gressel and newcomer Brad Smith on the flanks as well as Bill Hamid returning in his familiar #28 jersey and you can’t complain about the first-choice defense. Having Donovan Pines, Antonia Alfaro, and Chris Odoi-Atsem as support further solidifies the defense.
Departures creates opportunities
With Junior Moreno, Felipe, Arriola, Paredes leaving and a team that was at times goal starved due to inefficiencies at putting the ball “in the net” makes everyone wonder where the goals will come from. Will Ola Kamara continue to be productive? Will DC United earn as many PK’s to convert? But some of those holes is also an opportunity for Griffin Yow, Nigel Robertha,
Ted Ku-Dipietro, Moses Nyeman, or Adrien Perez to step up into those roles. The midfield paring of Canouse and Nyeman have an opportunity to change the way United operates in midfield, too. If individuals or groups don’t step up Losada has already indicated that the roster is incomplete and we can expect more as the year progresses.
The beauty in MLS is that you never know from year to year. Has a team tinkered too much, or not enough? We’ve seen seasons in DC, where nothing has changed from year to year, but the team just performs better. Other teams are in the same boat. How sustainable is Philly’s model? Was NYFC a fluke? Does Bob Bradley work some magic in Toronto? Chicago, remember them? What about New England? They haven’t won a game since announcing their new logo. Everyone has questions going into 2022 and the best thing is watching the season unfold.