Fresh start helps fuel D.C. United’s key pickups

May 1

D.C. United acquired Sean Franklin in the MLS Re-Entry Draft in December. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

D.C. United (3-2-2) has experienced quite the turnaround so far in 2014, having already equaled their 2013 win total in 27 fewer games.

Much of the credit for United’s improvement can be attributed to players that other teams in Major League Soccer simply didn’t care to have around anymore.

“It’s a good group and, as I said before, they’re hungry,” coach Ben Olsen said after Saturday’s 4-1 win over FC Dallas. “A lot of these guys have something to prove for one reason or another.”

Fabian Espindola was the star of Saturday’s win, scoring twice and assisting on another goal. Along with starting defenders Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell, Espindola was acquired in December’s MLS Re-Entry Draft — a league mechanism that allows teams to select players who are out of contract or have had contract options declined by their current teams.

“These are guys that feel like Olsen took a chance on us,” Boswell said. “He took a chance on us by bringing us in and giving us money, saying, ‘Hey, I think you guys can contribute on a high level.’ We want to reward not only them but want to show that that decision from the other club wasn’t the smartest decision.”

Three other key starters — Jeff Parke, Davy Arnaud and Chris Rolfe — were also let go by their previous teams.

All three were acquired in trades. Parke and Arnaud came over in the offseason, while Rolfe has only been with United for a month. Only Parke cost United anything substantial, as the team traded away young defender Ethan White and the top allocation spot for the veteran center back.

While higher-profile acquisitions Cristian Fernandez and Eddie Johnson have experienced some growing pains with their new club, Espindola, Franklin, Boswell, Rolfe, Parke and Arnaud have made a smooth transition.

If D.C. United’s new additions continue their strong performances, their old clubs may live to regret the decision to let them go.

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