D.C. United underwent a roster overhaul before the 2014 season began last weekend. One area that was largely untouched, however, was the midfield.
Veteran Davy Arnaud is the only addition likely to see significant action in United’s midfield in 2014, which mostly leaves the task of generating offense to the 2013 holdovers.
Last Saturday, United fell 3-0 at home to the Columbus Crew in the 2014 season opener. Like last season, United lacked creativity and cutting edge from the center of the field.
United’s attack was stifled by the Crew’s midfield and back line, and United only managed to get one shot on target — Cristian Fernandez’s 45-yard strike that goalkeeper Steve Clark tipped over the bar for a corner kick.
“I think that we were just a little bit off in some of the final things that really mattered tonight, and that was on the offensive end,” United coach Ben Olsen said after the loss.
With Perry Kitchen playing a holding role in United’s 4-4-2 setup, much of the onus fell to Luis Silva, who was unable to generate many attacking chances. Silva was acquired from Toronto FC last season. He has shown flashes during his career, but the 25-year-old has yet to produce on a consistent basis since being picked fourth overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft.
With Nick DeLeon and Chris Pontius — when he returns from injury — likely candidates to produce offense from the wing, United needs a creator in the middle to balance the attack. If Silva isn’t up to the task, options are limited.
Lewis Neal provided a spark off the bench last Saturday, and the team is high on his soccer IQ, but he needs to show he can stay healthy. Other options included moving Arnaud to the middle, or giving Jared Jeffrey a shot. Both players, however, are more straight-forward box-to-box central midfielders, not necessarily the offensive creator that United so badly needs.
The team will give Silva every opportunity to prove he can lead the offense. If the California native is able to do so, then D.C. United should be able to avoid more performances like last Saturday.