DC United had perhaps their worst ever season in 2013. With the exception of the US Open Cup win on the October 1, the Black-and-Reds recorded the joint worst record in MLS history with only 16 points to their name.

That was in the past though. For 2014, DC United can enter the season with the safe knowledge that they will be competing in the CONCACAF Champions League, with thanks to their remarkable U.S. Open Cup run, defeating MLS’ most in-form team at the time Real Salt Lake 1-0, leaving a ray of hope for the future. The additional allocation money as well as holding the first spot in the SuperDraft is also going to be of great help.

The money is already being put to good use. DC picked up three veterans and former-MLS Cup winners Bobby Boswell and Sean Franklin from the Re-Entry Draft; this is alongside Fabian Espindola from New York Red Bulls and former Montreal Impact captain Davy Arnaud in trades. The experience is going to be absolutely vital for a squad that showed signs of naivety in 2013, still riding high from their 2012 season whereby they reached the MLS Cup Eastern Conference final.

In terms of standout players in 2013, Perry Kitchen played a prominent role last season, standing out in a lackluster, injury-stricken DC midfield. Kitchen logged the most minutes out of any player last season (2,773 to be precise). His work rate and determination were skills transferred to others on that magical U.S. Open Cup run and will likely play a huge part in any success DC may experience in 2014.

Luis Silva looks to have been the most impressive acquisition last season whose skill, flair and off-the-ball runs have been critical in recording 3 goals and 2 assists in 13 appearances for his new club, after being surprisingly traded away by Toronto FC in the summer. With the departure of the ever-influential Dwayne de Rosario, Silva is expected to log serious minutes and has the potential to flourish in a number 10 role whereby his key traits could be built on further.

All the focus will be on Eddie Johnson going into 2014 though. ‘EJ’ joins DCU after his time at Seattle reaches its foregone conclusion.  With questions over Johnson’s attitude and the controversy that sparked in 2013 after his controversial ‘pay me’ celebration, the 29-year-old will want to act quickly to stamp his authority and become D.C. United’s 2014 MVP. Johnson may have finally found the right place though, with a team brim full of newfound experience and a potential strike partnership with Fabian Espindola could leave fans purring. If you combine Johnson and Espindola’s goal total from last season -18, when neither were guaranteed starters, you already have just 4 goals less than D.C. scored in all of 2013. 2014 could see two veterans having their best seasons yet.

Here is a very early prediction of what the starting line-up could potentially look like next season provided the squad remained the same:

A tremendously strong looking First XI. Notably, this is without the likes of the abundance of young, precocious talent in DC’s ranks including Jared Jeffrey, Conor Doyle, Collin Martin, Michael Seaton, Ethan White and now, centre back Nana Attakora from San Jose, who will want to try and reinvigorate his career after being one of MLS’ hottest young prospects when at Toronto FC in 2010.  Nick DeLeon and Chris Pontius both had relatively unremarkable seasons after being two of the league’s best performers in 2012. Pontius was an MLS All-Star 2 years ago and DeLeon was the 2012 Rookie of the Year runner-up, both have something to prove after scoring 3 goals combined last season.

Off the field and you have stability. Ben Olsen faced the constant threat of losing his job last year but has now been in the job for 3 years and became the manager aged just 33, 3 years on and you have a manager with a wealth of experience with increasing tactical knowledge of the game. The ownership team, consisting of Majority owner/new Inter Milan president Erick Thohir and managing general partner Jason Levien, looks to have answered supporter’s calls to move away from the rusting and seemingly derelict RFK Stadium to move to a brand new, soccer-specific stadium in the city’s Buzzard Point neighborhood where it is hoped that expanding the franchise’s fanbase would be achievable.

It is incredible in Major League Soccer how one team’s mentality can be transformed in just a matter of months – but that’s the gift of a league which prioritizes parity over all else. A number of promising acquisitions, an already existing core of players desperate to prove themselves and what looks, at least from the outside, to be a strong club infrastructure, combined the chance to play continental competition gives D.C. United every chance of mounting a playoff push and perhaps even bringing an MLS Cup back to the capital in 2014.

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