Get our free newsletter
It’s going to be a busy offseason for D.C. United.
The club currently has just 15 players under contract for the 2019 MLS season, meaning there are holes that need to be filled all over the field.
There are plenty of options for the club when it comes to adding new players, whether it’s international signings, trades with other MLS teams, free agent additions, homegrown signings, or next month’s college player draft.
Here’s a look at D.C. United’s current roster situation, with an examination of how Ben Olsen’s team is situated at every position.
Bill Hamid returned to D.C. United midway through 2018 after an unhappy—and brief—spell with Danish club Midtjylland. The 28-year-old joined on a season-and-a-half loan, so United will have to decide whether they wish to re-sign Hamid on a permanent basis at some point in 2019.
United acquired Earl Edwards Jr. from Orlando City this week to serve as Hamid’s primary backup next season. With Edwards Jr. in place, United must now find a willing trade partner for David Ousted, who began last season as a starter but lost his spot to Hamid. The 33-year-old Dane is making too much money to justify keeping as a backup next season.
United currently has just five defensive players under contract for 2019, so the back line will need to be heavily reinforced before next season kicks off. Steve Birnbaum had a strong 2018 campaign and is entrenched as a starter at center back. Frédéric Brillant was Birnbaum’s most frequent partner last season, but the Frenchman will be 34 next summer and United should look to improve at the position.
United could try to land University of Maryland junior Donovan Pines on a homegrown deal. Pines is an intriguing prospect at 6-foot-5, but he likely wouldn’t be ready to step in and start right away. If United wants to upgrade from Brillant, it will have to look toward the international market or target an MLS player in a trade.
Joseph Mora developed into a steady presence at left back last season and will return in 2019, though a backup is needed. Oniel Fisher held up well as a makeshift starter at right back, but injured his knee late in the season and is currently out of contract. Even if he returns, United will need more options at the position.
Chris Odoi-Atsem and Jalen Robinson are both under contract for 2019. Robinson is an able backup with upside and can play center back and right back, but Odoi-Atsem’s status is in the air as he undergoes treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Though the team needs reinforcements up and down the field, United’s biggest offseason priority won’t involve adding to the roster but rather securing the future of a player already on the team. That player is Luciano Acosta, who played at an MVP level for the second half of 2018, forming a nearly unstoppable partnership with Wayne Rooney.
Acosta has only one year left on his contract and as United’s fourth-highest earner, the 24-year-old is deserving of a hefty raise. Fans have been sent into a mild panic by Acosta’s cryptic social media posts, which can optimistically be viewed as mere posturing ahead of negotiations for a new deal.
United is also looking to bring back Yamil Asad, who was a key part of the club’s attack in 2018 while on loan from Argentine club Velez Sarsfield. Purchasing Asad could prove too expensive, so another loan may be the best bet to have the 24-year-old back for 2019.
The club is better situated at midfield than any other position, with several key performers from 2018 returning including Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse, Chris Durkin, Júnior Moreno, Ulises Segura, and Zoltan Stieber. If Asad returns, United will only need to add a depth option or two in midfield.
United has just one forward under contract for 2019 at the moment. Luckily that player is Rooney, who exceeded expectations in his first MLS half-season by scoring 12 goals and adding seven assists in 20 games.
Rooney is 33, though, and the grind of a full MLS season is enough to wear down any player, let alone one with as many games under his belt as the former England international.
Adding another starting-caliber forward will be paramount for the club. Rooney will likely need more rest than he did last season. Ideally, United will be able to add a speedy forward option who can stretch defenses to compliment Rooney, who has plenty of positive attributes but isn’t exactly the fastest player on the roster.
United is reportedly targeting William & Mary senior Antonio Bustamante as a homegrown signing, according to Steven Goff of The Washington Post, but the Virginia native would be more of a developmental prospect than an immediate starting option.