By AVI CREDITOR
With a bevy of new players and a new coaching regime, D.C. United will aim to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Former DCU player and assistant, Curt Onalfo, took over for former coach Tom Soehn in the offseason and inherited a team with quite a few holes after the departure of a number of roster stalwarts.
All is not bleak in the nation's capital, though. A successful preseason culminated with a Carolina Challenge Cup title, spearheaded by a rejuvenated Jaime Moreno. A fresh start may be just what this franchise needs to have a shot at competing for its fifth MLS Cup.
Here is a look at the 2010 D.C. United:
2010 D.C. UNITED
Players to Watch– Santino Quaranta, Chris Pontius, Bryan Namoff, Jaime Moreno
Key Arrivals– Troy Perkins, Christian Castillo, Danny Allsopp, Adam Cristman, Kurt Morsink
Key Departures– Christian Gomez, Luciano Emilio, Fred, Ben Olsen, Danny Szetela
Projected Lineup (New starters in bold):
————————Jaime Moreno———–Chris Pontius———————
—Christian Castillo———————————————Brandon Barklage—
–Rodney Wallace—Dejan Jakovic—-Julius James—Devon McTavish—
Biggest Question - Can the patchwork defense hold things together?
With Marc Burch out for at least three more months and Bryan Namoff not yet game-fit as he recovers from post-concussion complications, Onalfo will have to mix and match to form a wall of defense in front of Perkins. Trialist and Bolivian centerback Juan Manuel Pena figures to get a contract and will fight for a starting spot, but the onus will be on a group with limited experience together in the back to stay organized and keep the pressure off the keeper.
X-Factor– Santino Quaranta
Quaranta will be expected to be the team's playmaker this year, moving from outside midfield to a central role. He has stated his intentions at taking the proverbial "next step" in his career and is in position to do so. A great season from Quaranta is a must for D.C. to reach the postseason.
Outlook - Morale is high in the D.C. United camp, but the roster is still a bit thin, with more unknowns than a team would hope for entering a season.
Best case scenario: Allsopp and Castillo emerge as great signings, Quaranta embraces his new role, Namoff recovers and returns to form, Pontius blossoms in his second year and Perkins comes up big in goal.
Worst case scenario: The defense struggles at the onset, and the team gets off to a slow start, killing all positive preseason momentum. In the parity-rich MLS, anything is possible, but barring a major summer signing D.C. may be on the outside of the playoff picture come October.