3 Storylines From D.C. United's 1st Preseason Trip: Lucho, Rooney & Striker

null

D.C. United wrapped up their first preseason camp on Thursday night, playing to a 1-1 draw against MLS newcomers FC Cincinnati at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. In past years, the Black-and-Red have had relatively quiet visits to Clearwater, save for the addition of players. This year was a little bit different, first with the Transfer Day Deadline drama with Luciano Acosta, and then with Wayne Rooney picking up an injury in the first friendly against the Bethlehem Steel. 

However, both situations turned out favorably for United, who return to the D.C. area today, before heading back down to Florida next week. In their second trip, there are games against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Philadelphia Union, and Montreal Impact. Those games should give fans a first chance to see United in action, as neither friendly on this excursion was streamed.

Here are the big storylines that stood out as United gear up for the start of the 2019 season on March 3.

1. Luciano Acosta stays with United

First, there were the rumors of clubs from the Middle East tabling offers for United’s Argentine playmaker. Those were swatted away, giving way to one of the biggest transfer bombshells of the window — Paris Saint-Germain offering D.C. $10 million for Lucho. Acosta, accompanied by United general manager Dave Kasper, was quickly whisked away to the French capital, in hopes of getting a deal down at the deadline.

In the end, a deal was not made before midnight in Europe on January 31. The money involved in the deal was the main culprit, as PSG apparently offered one figure to get Acosta in France, and then submitted a lower offer once he arrived.

Had Acosta been upset and downtrodden about not getting a move, it would have been understandable. PSG is one of the biggest clubs in the world, and a soccer player only has so many opportunities to make a move like that. Ben Olsen offered Acosta a couple of days off after the move wasn’t completed, but the former Boca Juniors man immediately returned to Florida to rejoin the Black-and-Red.

And it seems that Acosta rejoined completely motivated to continue his play from the back half of 2018. Olsen withheld Acosta from the Bethlehem game, despite Acosta asking to play. Lucho then scored the only goal for United against Cincinnati, and that was without Rooney on the field. A version of Acosta this motivated to potentially earn another shot at a big move overseas might be the difference in United merely making the playoffs, and earning a top seed.

2. Wayne Rooney suffers minor injury

Of course, for United to continue to be successful, they will also need to have their main attraction on the field. Rooney, who last year surpassed 800 professional games played, suffered a shin bruise against the Bethlehem Steel, and had to be removed after only 18 minutes. Rooney downplayed the severity of the injury afterwards to the Washington Post, though he did miss a day of training this past Monday. Rooney wasn’t in the starting lineup against Cincinnati, but did come off the bench to play about 25 minutes on Thursday night.

It’s no secret that Rooney plays a vital part for United. As will be addressed below, currently, he’s United’s only feasible option at striker. At his age, and with the number of games he has played, there’s a non-zero chance that he might start to slow down or succumb to injuries more often. Keeping Rooney healthy and on the field is critical for the Black-and-Red, and fortunately, the injury against the Steel luckily turned out favorably for the club.

3. The search for a backup striker continues

Another reason why Rooney needs to stay healthy? For the time being, he’s the only striker on United’s roster. Darren Mattocks quickly became frustrated with his playing time last year when Rooney arrived and had already agreed that he wasn’t returning to D.C. when Cincinnati picked him in the Expansion Draft. 

For now, that spot is the most glaring need on the roster. United could stand to add a couple of more depth signings in other spots, but with Rooney not in the starting lineup last night, Ulises Segura was given the role of forward. Segura has some qualities that would make him useful in that role, but finishing chances isn’t one of them.

United drafted Shinya Kadono back in January, and the former University of California forward scored against Bethlehem Steel. The Black-and-Red also apparently have forward Kyle Murphy on trial, but will likely be more of an option for the USL side, Loudoun United FC, if he sticks.

To fill the backup striker role, United will have to find someone who is content with maybe getting a couple of starts throughout the year, and some appearances off the bench as well. It’s not an envious position, but with a persona like Rooney on the team, it won’t be possible to supplant him on the field.

Preview: Reserves, Newcomers Get Chance For DCU Against Union

null

D.C. United will take the field this evening for their penultimate preseason friendly, when they take on the Philadelphia Union at 7 PM ET at Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex in Clearwater, Florida. On Saturday, the Black-and-Red grinded out a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies as Paul Arriola found the only goal on the night. However, a very different starting lineup will likely take the field tonight for United, with the last preseason game coming on Saturday against the Montreal Impact.

10 Things In Italy: Inter-Icardi Crisis Continues & Pioli Buys Sandwiches

Another seven days has passed in the wonderful world of Italian football, so let FloFC’s 10 Things get you caught up with what’s going on!

Struggling To Score, Carlo Ancelotti & Napoli Are A Team In Transition

As Napoli recorded two consecutive 0-0 draws with Fiorentina and Torino in Serie A, it began to emerge that Carlo Ancelotti’s side have a problem with scoring goals. The Partenopei now sit a staggering 13 points behind top-of-the-table Juventus, and only once before (2006-07) has there been a gap this big between first and second place in the era of three points for a win.

Parsing The Numbers: Goal Differential & Home-Field Advantage In The MLS

No matter the sport, it has always been said that there are certain advantages to playing at home. Whether it’s the roaring of the crowd that brings out the best in players, the social pressure placed on the referees or simply the advantages of playing on a familiar pitch, playing at home does significantly increase a team’s likelihood of winning. But just how much does it change a team’s outcome? Are different teams affected differently when playing on their home turf? If so, what are the variables that contribute to these differences? While we here at FloSports have previously looked at the effects of home court advantage in the Euroleague, today we will look at which MLS teams have performed most differently at home versus on the road. 

3 Tactical Tendencies D.C. United Revealed Against Tampa Bay Rowdies

D.C. United's second Florida preseason camp got off to a winning start on Saturday, when the Black-and-Red took down USL side the Tampa Bay Rowdies in St. Petersburg, Florida. United fielded a strong lineup, with head coach Ben Olsen sending out a starting lineup that is likely to feature on March 3 against Atlanta United. 

3 Potential MLS Breakout Players: Hairston, Krolicki, & Yueill

MLS does not have a Most Improved Player award, but every year, players emerge as stars or quintessential role players who would be deserving of such an honor. Last year, the Dynamo’s Mauro Manotas easily set a career high in goals and became the lone bright spot on a disappointing team. D.C. United’s Luciano Acosta grew into a legitimate superstar after Wayne Rooney’s arrival.

Yankees In Europe: John Brooks Is Back & Tyler Adams Dishes A Pretty Assist

Another weekend of European soccer action, another series of performances by American talent. There has been a wave of Yankees making the move across the Atlantic in recent times and here are some of the best displays turned in over the weekend by Americans currently plying their trade in the big European leagues.

Recap: D.C. United, Led By Paul Arriola's Goal, Beat Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-0

D.C. United got a first-half goal from Paul Arriola as the Black-and-Red defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-0 on Saturday night in St. Petersburg, FL. Playing in the second game of the Suncoast Invitational, Arriola's 34th-minute goal, his first of the preseason, was the only tally of a game that also saw a goal from Wayne Rooney called back by video review. 

Can An MLS Team Win CONCACAF Champions League In 2019?

It’s around this time of year that thoughts turn towards the CONCACAF Champions League. North and Central America’s premier club competition has struggled for an identity at times. Many fans, particularly those of a Major League Soccer persuasion, have issues with the scheduling, but it has grown in stature and significance in recent years.

Preview: Wayne Rooney, D.C. United Take On The Tampa Bay Rowdies

It’s back to the Sunshine State for D.C. United, this time to take part in the 2019 edition of the Suncoast Invitational hosted by the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The game, which begins at 7:30 p.m. ET, is set to be streamed by the Rowdies on their Youtube page. Al Lang Stadium will be the stage for matches involving the hometown club and MLS sides D.C., Philadelphia and Montreal.