WASHINGTON, January 23, 2014 — With the start of Major League Soccer less than two months away, D.C. United has torn apart and rebuilt its backline. The reorganization looks promising.
While talented goalie Bill Hamid will still manage the nets with Joe Willis as backup, the defensive line in front of him will be looking a lot different.
Gone is five-year starting central defender Dejan Javokic, who has been transferred to Japanese club Shumizu S-Pulse. Also gone, is homegrown Ethan White, who was traded to the Philadelphia Union in exchange for 31-year-old, Jeff Parke a veteran of the league’s New York franchise.
Parke will join Bobby Boswell, 30, in the center of the backline. Boswell returns to United after many successful years at the Houston Dynamo. A good organizer, vocal, and a serious reader of the game, Boswell, now a seasoned veteran, could bring calmness to a defense that was erratic and devoid of confidence last year. The duo of Boswell and Parke certainly bring experience at the heart of United’s defense.
One of the most exciting additions to United’s defense is Sean Franklin, 28, who comes to the D.C. outfit after winning two titles with the Los Angeles Galaxy. The experienced Franklin is not afraid to venture forward on the right flank and is a pretty good crosser of the ball.
And defender Chris Korb, 26, the only recognizable part of the United’s defense from its worst season ever, is a little happier these days. Korb, known for his hard work, foraging runs and speculative crosses, signed a new contract this week, getting another season to prove he is a first division player.
In the mold of United coach Ben Olsen, with a never say die attitude, Korb is one of the few United players that looked like he was giving a 100 percent late in United’s nightmare season in 2013. He can play on both sides of the park but will likely start as a left back.
United further boosted its defensive posture at the MLS Superdraft this month when it picked University of California defender Steve Birnbaum, 22, with its first pick and second overall selection. The accolades for Birnbaum from the pundits at the draft were loud and clear: United had picked a potential starter.
United general manager Dave Kasper, said he was a player with all the skills to have a long professional career, calling Birnbaum “intelligent” and a “ferocious competitor.”
Also joining United’s new stable of defenders in Canadian international Nana Attakora, 24, who joins the club from Toronto FC and will be battling to earn a first team spot. Then there is homegrown defender Jalen Robinson, 19, called a “modern defender” by his youth coach for his speed, ball skills and athleticism.
Four-year reserve defender Conor Shanosky, who can also play in the midfield, is due to get a breakout season with the club.
Young defenders, Taylor Kemp, 23, and Travis Golden, 21, will also be hoping to help the United backline recover from last year when the team gave up a 59 goals, the second worst on the season behind Chivas USA’s 67.
United opens its season at home against the Columbus Crew on March 8, at RFK Stadium, 7 p.m.
John Haydon wrote a soccer column for The Washington Times for over 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon