There are three things I believe:
1) Han shot first.
2) Ella Fitzgerald is the best female vocalist of all time.
On all other topics from vaccinations to the origins of the universe I am squishy, but on these the points I will tolerate no debate. So D.C. United’s 0-3-1 preseason record doesn’t bother me, just as their excellent record before the 2010 nightmaretastrophy didn’t impress me. But preseason isn’t useless; there are still things we can look for and things we can learn. Here’s what I’m keeping an eye on this preseason:
Are Chris Pontius’s minutes steadily increasing? The single biggest reason United missed the postseason last year was because Pontius broke his leg. He is only now getting back to fitness, and he saw his first action of the preseason by playing 30 minutes against Real Salt Lake on Tuesday. Sometimes a player will think that he’s healed only to find out that he’s not quite right (see: Ben Olsen, Stuart Holden, Jermain Jones, and John O’Brien about 20 different times), so the more Pontius plays without incident the more I’ll believe that he is truly healed. I don’t care if he scores, I don’t care if he has assists; he could spend his minutes doing the Dougie for all I care. As long as he’s gradually playing more and more, that’s a good sign.
Note to Chris Pontius: do not Dougie.
Which two of Dejan Jakovic, Brandon McDonald and Emiliano Dudar are first-teamers? This is probably a moot point because at least one of the three will probably miss significant time to a concussion, hamstring pull, or the newly created brainchild of D.C. United Labs: the hamcussion. But in the unlikely event that all three stay healthy, which two are the starters? I honestly don’t know. We might have an old-fasioned position battle, a phrase that I like because it makes me imagine that the competition is happening with the players sporting suspenders and handlebar moustaches. Actually, maybe that should be the determining factor: the two gentleman who demonstrate the most abundant and cultivated whiskers on March 10 shall be proffered spots in the starting 11. If there’s one man on Earth in a position to judge the quality of facial hair, it’s Ben Olsen.
How is Branko Boskovic being used? So far, injuries and fitness issues (a “fitness issue” is different from an injury because it is simply a euphemism for “being a tub”) have kept Boskovic from contributing much to this team. Now his ACL is healed, and United want to use him. But how will they use him, on the center or on the left? Will he be a starter? Boskovic is the real wild card on this team; if he earns his salary, he could be a huge boost. United have a lot of attacking options, so Boskovic probably only starts if he’s playing well. Tracking how United use Boskovic will tell us a lot about how United’s attack is shaping up overall.
Who will make the team: Lance Rozeboom or the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill? Funny thing about United’s roster: it currently consists of 23 signed players, even though they’re allowed 30. Now, in a year with no international competitions, I’m fine with paying the starters a little more and leaving the end of the bench empty. After all, you can always pick up a few spare Morsinks as the season goes along if you need to. Right now, supplemental draft pick Lance Rozeboom has a chance to make the squad, and he certainly didn’t hurt his chances by scoring the only goal against Real Salt Lake on Tuesday. But is United really prepared to commit the princely sum of $44,000 — per year, before taxes, in American dollars — to the midfielder? They may decide to spend that money elsewhere, perhaps in equipment to help players rehab from the estimated 70 to 80 hamcussions that will occur over the course of the year. But if United decides to go with a human being, it’ll probably sign Rozeboom.