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New-look D.C. United ready to face Crew

7:41 PM, Mar 7, 2014   |    comments
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Washington, DC (SportsNetwork.com) - After an offseason of major overhaul, D.C. United will open its 2014 campaign on Saturday against Eastern Conference rivals Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium.

United had one of the worst seasons in league history last year, winning just three games to go with 24 losses. They did win the U.S. Open Cup with a shock upset of Real Salt Lake, but after such a poor season, a complete roster makeover was needed.

The front office jettisoned several big-name figures from last year's team, including former MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario, Carlos Ruiz, Lionard Pajoy, along with several members of the starting back line, including Dejan Jakovic, Ethan White and James Riley.

The overhaul then began in a big way with the acquisition of U.S. international Eddie Johnson from Seattle Sounders FC. United scored just 22 goals last season and Johnson should help kick start the offense as he bagged 23 goals over his two years in Seattle.

To help Johnson with the scoring duties, United made a splash in the league's Re-Entry draft by selecting former New York Red Bull Fabian Espindola. Espindola came to New York last season in a trade from Real Salt Lake but never found his footing in New York, scoring just eight goals.

However, Espindola has displayed his scoring prowess in previous seasons, so it could just be that a change of scenery is all that is needed for him to regain his form.

Chris Pontius returns to the midfield along with Nick DeLeon and Perry Kitchen, while United will feature an entirely new back four with Jeff Parke arriving from Philadelphia, Sean Franklin coming from Los Angeles and Bobby Boswell arriving from Houston. The only unknown for D.C. on the back line will be Christian Fernandez.

For Columbus, it's the dawn of a new era as Gregg Berhalter takes the reins as head coach, and after being hired by the Crew this past November, Berhalter has wasted little time in making his mark.

The Columbus back line will have a different look this season with Berhalter letting go of defenders Glauber, Chad Marshall and Danny O'Rourke and shedding some salary in the process.

To replace that trio, Berhalter has brought in U.S. national team defender Michael Parkhurst as well as Costa Rican defenders Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis.

In midfield, the Crew brought in former Chicago Fire man Daniel Paladini and former LA Galaxy man Hector Jimenez, while the attack will continue to center around Argentine striker Federico Higuain, speedy forward Dominic Oduro and Costa Rican Jairo Arrieta.

Higuain tallied 11 goals last year to go with nine assists, while Arrieta netted three goals and added four assists in his first full season in Columbus.

Last season, Columbus won both meetings with D.C. United by a combined score of 5-1.

The Sports Network

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