Rafael could be the DP that DC has been searching for all of these years. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Rafael could be the DP that DC has been searching for all of these years. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The 2013 MLS preseason is in fully swing right now. Several teams from the league are in Florida or out in Arizona. D.C. United is currently in Orlando at the Disney preseason tournament. Yesterday they lost 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City.

Today we’ll dive into a season preview for Ben Olsen’s club.

Last year United nearly claimed the Eastern Conference crown before bowing out to rivals Houston in the Eastern Conference finals. Olsen’s club had to deal with some injuries throughout the season but did manage to get plenty of points and at one time were very close to securing the top seed in the East.

Time to look and see how they have done this winter and what questions we might have about them.

2012 MLS record: 17-10-7 (2nd place in Eastern Conference), 58 points

[twocol_one]IN:
John Thorrington (12/14/12 – Re-Entry Draft Stage 2)
Rafael (1/9/13 – loan from Bahia)
Michael Seaton (1/14/13 – Homegrown)
M/F Syamsir Alam (1/25/13 – loan from CS Visé)
Casey Townsend (1/25/14 – trade from Chivas USA)[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]OUT: 
Branko Boskovic (11/21/12 – contract terminated)
Mike Chabala (12/3/12 – option declined)
Emiliano Dudar (12/3/12 – option declined)
Maicon Santos (12/3/12 – option declined)
Stephen King (12/3/12 – option declined)
Long Tan (1/25/13 – waived)
M/D Andy Najar (1/30/13 – transfer to Anderlecht)[/twocol_one_last]

Key Questions for 2013

“We have a lot of guys returning from last year,” Perry Kitchen told DCUnited.com. “If we can put in similar effort and get similar results as last year, I think we’ll be in good shape.” 1. Can Rafael make an impact in 2013? One could say that the last couple of Designated Players that D.C. United has signed have been big whiffs. Branko Boskovic was decent when healthy but not great. Hamdi Salihi never quite measured up to what some would have hoped he would have been. So now United turns to a young Brazilian by the name of Rafael. He’s the second youngest DP signed by MLS, a move that myself and a few others around the league are excited by.

But can he make the impact that a DP is suppose to make? Honestly, I don’t see it happening in year one. I look at this move just like I looked at FC Dallas signing Fabian Castillo a couple seasons ago. He’ll bring flash and excitement to the pitch in year one but don’t expect him to win you a MLS Cup just yet. He has been battling some injuries already this preseason but he did manage to create some chances in last night’s loss to SKC at the Disney tournament. I hope in a way I am wrong about this and he tears it up in his first MLS season.

2. Will Ethan White and Conor Shanosky break through? Both young Homegrown players were loaned out a good bit last season by United. Thankfully both got plenty of playing time in the process. White went to Richmond and saw a few extra games while Shanosky went to the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale team and played the entire season there. After seeing time away form the main squad in 2012, these two could be on the cusp of breaking through in 2013. The thing is both will likely get loaned back out to United’s new USL affiliate Richmond for the season. It is a tough decision but given the depth at the positions these two play, sitting on the bench at RFK Stadium won’t do them justice. Don’t be shocked if newly signed HGP Michael Seaton also gets loaned away for the year.

3. Can Dwayne De Rosario stay healthy all season? This has been an issue the last two seasons for United. Late in the year they are doing well and boom, DeRo goes down. Thankfully last year United were able to make things work without him there thanks to the rise of rookie Nick DeLeon and Chris Pontius. But let’s face it, this is DeRo’s team in a large way. As he goes, so does the rest of the team. United need him health for the season if they want to get back to MLS Cup. I like their attack with him, Pontius, DeLeon, and even newcomer Casey Townsend. But the more I look at it the more I believe they need DeRo for the entire season to be truly successful.

Breakout Player for 2013

Casey Townsend – This is a bit old of me to say, considering how he hardly did anything with Chivas USA last year as a rookie. But Townsend will be back near his home with United and the set up there is so much better for him to succeed with that midfield and that group of players. I think even a six goal season would be a success for him.

Predictions for 2013

- United will quietly pull the trigger this summer on a DP. Just like with several teams, I do think United is one player away from being truly special here. They go out and do it this summer with a risky but wise DP signing that gets them over the top.

- Chris Pontius will be in the running for MLS MVP. Yeah, bold prediction indeed. I just love everything about this guy’s game and I see this as a year that he truly rises to another level. I know they have a MVP in DeRo but at some point I think the keys to the MVP bus will be handed over to Pontius this year. Keep in mind I’m not saying he’ll win the award but I do think he’ll be in the discussion.

- Something good will happen on their stadium situation. I’ve said it every year for the last four years in my bold predictions piece but I’ll keep doing it until it happens. Gotta think positive when it comes to this club and them getting a stadium right? I don’t know if this means they’ll get some shovels in the ground or at least get a true deal on the table but something positive will happen this year on their stadium search. Something.