All of a Sudden, DC United is Deep Up Top
United finds itself with a wide gamut of choices for one (and possibly two) lineup spots in 2021. We’ll run through the options Hernán Losada has to choose from and look at what we think the most likely choice will be.
Ola Kamara: You know him, you…know him. After a transfer abbreviated 2019 and a COVID truncated 2020, Ola Kamara has failed to make a last impression on DC United fans. Scoring 7 goals in 27 matches (which is truthfully more than I expected to see), Kamara has been plagued by missed chances, service not to this liking, and a clear loss of a scorer’s confidence throughout out 2020. Being brought in on a multi-million dollar transfer ensures many opportunities on DC United, so the club will be looking for Kamara to rediscover his form (last found in 2018 with the LA Galaxy) and convert the increased chances that Losada’s system will hopefully provide.
Kimarni Smith: The 2021 first round draft pick out of Clemson likely projects as more of a winger than an out and out striker with United, but with a goal in the first preseason game of 2021, Smith will be given a look throughout the preseason to see if he can build on that performance. For a team that had as many problems scoring as United did last year, the team will likely give an extended opportunity to players who convert chances. Smith was the ACC Tournament MVP and leading scorer in the COVID abbreviated schedule, which undoubtedly helped his draft stock with teams forced to make judgements on less game tape than usual. He was also born in England, and the international spot he would take on the senior roster may be a factor in his eventual loan to Loudoun United for the season.
Yordy Reyna: Acquired from Vancouver after wearing out his welcome with Coach Marc Dos Santos, the Peruvian international failed to make a substantial impact for United in the tail end of the 2021 season. The move, which cost United 400k in General Allocation Money, a 2020 international spot, and undefined future considerations should Reyna agree to a deal in 2021 (he did), ensures that Reyna will also be given plenty of opportunities to fit in this season’s plans. Profiling much more as a second striker than a lone target man, Reyna is likely to enjoy the vertical attacking and wing overload features of Losada’s tactics. There is also undoubtedly a subtle hope that Reyna can help bring out the best of his countryman, Edison Flores, who’s performance will be crucial to United’s move up the table in the Eastern Conference.
Nigel Robertha: The newest and shiniest toy in the United locker, Robertha has agreed to a deal with DC, pending a Visa, a medical, and whatever other procedural hurdles await new players. Robertha has been playing with his hair on fire since United indicated interest earlier this year, with 7 goals in his last 5 games for Levski Sofia in Bulgaria. A transfer fee in the low 7 figures, according to Steven Goff in the Washington Post, Robertha was able to coax improved personal terms out of United and secure his move overseas. Goff indicates the team expects Robertha to immediately compete with Kamara for the starting spot in a one-forward formation. In a great piece of news for optimists, Robertha will not occupy a designated player spot, leaving flexibility for United to fill that spot in the summer, if they so choose (editors note: they never have used all three spots for a full season).
Jovanny Bolivar: The youngest player brought in to compete at 19 years, Bolivar comes to United by way of Deportivo La Guaira in the Venezuelan league after a successful U-20 tournament with teammate (and Loudoun United newcomer) Darluis Paz. A one year loan on a player with this amount of experience is essentially a lottery ticket that recalls to mind the Bruno Miranda experiment a few years ago. Unless Bolivar knocks the socks off the coaching staff or we have a major injury crisis, Bolivar appears much more likely to feature in Loudoun alongside Paz.
Erik Sorga: The Estonian Messi. The Hero From Red Bull Arena. The Adult Man With LED Lighting In His Bedroom. Sorga, who scored an absurd amount of goals with FC Flora (41 goals in 71 appearances and 36 starts), was a fan favorite with extremely limited playing time under Ben Olsen and a little more under Interim Chad Ashton. Scoring 1 goal is 668 minutes, Sorga seemed to have issues fitting in with the style of play under Olsen and showed his inexperience at the MLS level in a number of defense lapses and games where he was unable to put a stamp on the game. He did score that game winner against Red Bull, and many fans are eager to see what he can produce given more opportunities.
EDIT: I completely forgot about Adrien Perez, who is in fact a real player on DC United who also plays forward. That’s how many forwards DC United has right now. I refuse to edit this piece otherwise.
With most of these options holding international spots, it is an absolute impossibility that United will break camp with all of these players on the roster. What do we think the most likely outcome will be, without seeing any preseason matches?
Outcome: Ola Kamara gets a long leash with Losada, as the new coach seeks to unlock the scoring touch of the Norwegian and rebuild his flagging confidence. Early goals, in front of fans, could be the cure what ails Kamara. Nigel Robertha will push Kamara for minutes, likely beginning the year as a late game substitute. Yordy Reyna is a key piece in a formation with two forwards, so even if United don’t start games in that setup, Reyna allows Losada to change the game with one change. Erik Sorga seems most likely to stick with United of the remaining three, but may be encouraged to go to Loudoun and get a bucket of goals under his belt in the US. Kimarni Smith will stay the first half of the season as wing depth until Paul Arriola returns and is ready for action, spending the second half of the year getting minutes in Loudoun. Jovanny Bolivar will start the year in Loudoun and see if his U20 international form translates to the American game.
What do you think United will do with all of these forwards?