Ever since the back four of Perry Kitchen, Dejan Jakovic, Ethan White, and Daniel Woolard first started playing together, the DC United defense has looked more organized and, more importantly, has let in far fewer goals. But now, United’s longest serving defensive starter, Dejan Jakovic, is leaving for duty with the Canadian National Team. Regardless of your deep, passionate hatred for Jakovic (there are plenty of you out there), he has played well so far this season, and he has gotten better as the season has progressed. This leaves a big question: How will Ben Olsen juggle his back line to replace Jakovic?
Rodrigo Brasesco was brought in to be center back cover for exactly this time. However, in his limited stints in the center, he has looked poor. He would not be in the conversation were Jed Zayner healthy, but he has looked decent as a right back. This leads to what I think is the most likely situation…
I think that Perry Kitchen is going to end up playing alongside Ethan White in the center while Jakovic is out. He started the year as a center back and played fairly well in that position. However, he is not the prototypical center back: he is a little small and not as much of a physical presence as White or Jakovic. His skill on the ball is more suited to an outside back, where he has been shutting down opposing wingers. Taking on a powerful target forward will give him problems. Regardless, a back line of Brasesco-Kitchen-White-Woolard seems to be the most likely.
At the beginning of last year, Clyde Simms started out as a center back, but got hurt in the first game. It was a harbinger of the season to come. If Olsen doesn’t think that Kitchen is a strong enough presence in the middle of defense, he could put Simms there, Brasesco on the right, and then Kitchen in the midfield. Or he could put Simms in the back and then put Stephen King in the midfield.
Any other combination of moving defenders around would require one of the injured players to come back and already be match fit. The injury to Devon McTavish is especially painful now; he likely would have been the one to slide into the middle with Brasesco’s current performance. Like I said above, I don’t see Jed Zayner playing center back, but he would be the right back instead of Brasesco, were he healthy.
Well, I already gave it further up, but I think that the back line will end up being Rodrigo Brasesco-Perry Kitchen-Ethan White-Daniel Woolard. If Zayner is healthy, I could see him playing right back over Brasesco, but that is about the only change I see. Ethan White looked strong against the Timbers on Sunday, so let’s hope that his power combined with Kitchen’s skill provides United with a solid enough combination to last until Jakovic returns.