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D.C. United 2024 Season Preview - Narrowing the Gap

Once again, it’s a new day for D.C. United as the team enters the 2024 season under a completely new regime. 


Troy Lesesne replaces Wayne Rooney as the head coach, coming over from New York Red Bulls after spending 2022 and early parts of 2023 as an assistant there before taking over as the interim head coach during last season. 


His previous head coaching stint besides the interim title last year came with New Mexico United from 2018-2021, where he led the USL side from their creation in the fall of 2018 to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2019 and 2020. 


In 2020, Lesense was names USL Co-Coach of the Year after the club won its first ever playoff game and finished 8-3-4 on the year. 


After the 2021 season, Lesense resigned and took the job as an assistant with New York Red Bulls, eventually leading to his first MLS head coaching job in D.C. 


He signed a three-year contract on January 10 of this year and inherits a D.C. United squad that has not made the postseason since 2019 and has not won a playoff match since 2015. 


In this article, we’ll take a look at last year’s D.C. United season, what roster moves were made, as well as a look ahead to this year and what we might be able to expect in year one of the Lesense era. 

 

Nuts & Bolts

  • 2023 MLS Record: 10-10-14 (40 points, 12th out of 15 in Eastern Conference)

  • 14-11-15 in all competitions

  • Head Coach: Troy Lesesne (1st season)

  • Stadium: Audi Field (Since 2018)

  • History:

    • MLS Cup Champions: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004

    • Eastern Conference Champions: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2004

    • Eastern Conference Regular Season Champions: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2006, 2007, 2014

    • Playoff Appearances: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 

  • 2023 Stats

    • Full season stats available HERE

    • Goals for: 45

    • Goals against: 49 

  • Reserve Team: Loudon United FC - USL Championship 

  • Follow Along on Twitter 

 

Last Season


Coming off an abysmal 2022 campaign in which D.C. United finished at the bottom of the MLS standings and fired Head Coach Hernan Losada midseason, the club entered 2023 with cautious optimism, now with Wayne Rooney as the head coach and the big transfer of Christian Benteke ready for his first full season as the starting striker. 


In 2022, DCU set a club record for goals conceded with 75, while the General Manager Lucy Rushton, in addition to the head coach, was fired at season's end. 


The team was off to a decent start in 2023, winning four of its first ten games while drawing two more. To compare, the club won seven games total in 2022. 

A sold out Audi Field during D.C. United's match vs. NYCFC (Photo: D.C United)


After the decent start, however, D.C. won just six games of its remaining 24 games in MLS, with tons of lopsided results mixed in, including a 4-0 loss to New England on July 15. 


With seven games to go, the club was right in the mix for a playoff spot, but could not seem to get over the hump and win a game. They tied in four of five matches and secured the final win of the season in the last game of the season, a 2-0 win over New York City FC. By then, they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. 


The clubs leading goalscorer was Christian Benteke, who netted 14 of the teams 46 goals in all competition, eight more than anyone else.


Leeds United transfer Mateusz Klich led the squad with 7 assists in his first year in D.C. He’ll be back for year two in 2024. 


Overall, the club finished 10-10-14 in MLS with 40 points and coming in at 23rd overall in the league and 12th in the Eastern Conference. 


An improvement from 2022, but not enough of one for Head Coach Wayne Rooney to keep his job. He and the club mutually parted ways following the conclusion of the season.


Since leaving D.C, Rooney has already been hired and sacked by English club Birmingham City, winning just twice in 15 matches. 


The former Manchester United legend will be replaced in D.C. by new Manager Troy Lesesne, who comes to the nation's capital after a stint as the New York Red Bulls interim head coach last season. 


Looking ahead, there’s plenty to be excited about for a D.C. United team that is hungry to take that next step forward and continue to climb up the MLS standings. 

 

Who’s Out


  • Ruan Gregório Gregorio Teixeira - Defender

    • Joined CF Montreal

  • Derrick Williams - Defender

    • Joined Atlanta United through MLS Re-Entry Draft

  • Chris Durkin - Midfielder

    • Traded to St. Louis City 

  • Taxiarchis Fountas - Forward

    • Joined Trabzonspor in Turkey

  • Jacob Greene - Midfielder-Defender

    • Joined Columbus Crew

  • Brendan Hines-Ike - Defender

    • Joined Austin FC as a free agent

  • Ola Kamara - Forward

    • Joined Hacken - a Swedish club

  • Ravel Morrison - Midfielder

    • Left out of last year’s squad

  • Andy Najar - Defender

    • Joined Honduran club Olimpia on one year deal 

  • Victor Palsson - Midfielder

    • Joined Belgian club Eupen on three year deal

  • Donovan Pines - Defender

    • Signed with English club Barnsley in January 2024

  • Nigel Robertha - Forward

    • Left out of 2024 roster

  • Gaoussou Samake - Defender

    • Left out of 2024 roster

 

Who’s In


  • Lucas Bartlett - Defender

    • Joined D.C. United from St. Louis City

  • Alex Bono - Goalkeeper

    • Joined D.C. United last year from Toronto FC

  • Nathan Crockford - Goalkeeper

    • Selected by D.C. United 65th overall out of Wisconsin in the MLS Draft

  • Cristian Dajome - Forward

    • Joined D.C. United from Vancouver Whitecaps

  • Aaron Herrera - Defender

    • Joined D.C. United from CF Montreal

  • Christopher McVey - Defender

    • Joined D.C. United on transfer from Inter Miami

  • Jacob Murrell - Forward

    • Selected by D.C. United 7th overall out of Georgetown in the MLS Draft

  • Gabriel Pirani - Midfielder 

    • Joined D.C. United on to buy from Fluminense

  • Jared Stroud - Midfielder 

    • Joined D.C. United from St. Louis City

  • Garrison Tubbs - Defender

    • Joined D.C. United on transfer from Atlanta United 

 

Who’s Back


  • Matai Akinmboni - Defender

    • Has made 5 total appearances in his first two seasons with D.C. United

  • Christian Benteke - Forward

    • D.C. United’s leading goal scorer last season with 14

  • Steve Birnbaum - Defender

    • 22 appearances for D.C. United last season

  • Russell Canouse - Midfielder

    • Beginning his 8th year with D.C. United - 16 appearances last year

  • Kristian Fletcher - Forward

    • Currently on loan with Swansea City

  • Jeremy Garay - Midfielder

    • Beginning 4th year with D.C. United - 0 career appearances

  • Jackson Hopkins - Midfielder

    • 3rd season with D.C. United - 10 total appearances last year

  • Mohanad Jeahze - Defender 

    • Beginning the second of a three year deal with D.C. United - 6 appearances last year

  • Mateusz Klich - Midfielder

    • 2nd season with D.C. United - 36 appearances and 4 goals last year

  • Theodore Ku-Dipietro - Midfielder

    • 3rd season with D.C. United - 27 appearances and 5 goals last year

  • Tyler Miller - Goalkeeper

    • 2nd season with D.C. United - 25 appearances last year

  • Martín Rodriguez - Midfielder

    • Third season in D.C. - coming off an ACL injury that kept him out all of last year

  • Pedro Santos - Defender

    • 2nd season with D.C. United - 2 appearances last year

  • Hayden Sargis - Defender

    • Has been on loan the last two seasons at Phoenix Rising and Loudon United

  • Luis Zamudio - Goalkeeper

    • On loan at Pittsburgh Riverhounds 

 

This Season


For the second consecutive season, D.C. United enters the year with a new head coach and minimal expectations. 


The club returns its leading goal-scorer, Christian Benteke, who netted 14 goals last year, tied for 7th most in the league. 


Mateusz Klich, who led the squad with 9 assists, also returns in 2024. 


For Head Coach Troy Lesesne, the goal for 2024 is pretty simple: narrow the gap between the bottom part of the league and the top teams in MLS. 


Last season, D.C. United had an early opportunity to rewrite the narrative when they hit the road early in the year to Cincinnati to take on one of the league's top teams. 


DCU had won three straight entering the match, but fell 2-1 that night. Still, the squad appeared to be narrowing that aforementioned gap and be steadily improving. 


From there, however, the team did not win back-to-back games for the remainder of the season, with its most lopsided defeats coming against the league's best teams, including a 4-0 thrashing against New England and a 3-1 loss against Philly during a three game losing streak in July that sent the team toward the bottom of the MLS standings. 


In order to narrow the gap to the league’s better sides, D.C. United has to focus on defense. 


D.C. finished near the middle of the pack in goals scored (45), while surrendering 49, also near the middle of the pack. 


With similar offensive numbers expected, if the team can improve defensively like it did from 2022 to 2023, that should be enough to rise up the table and potentially get into the MLS playoffs. 


Even though there’s a new coaching regime in town, there are plenty of familiar faces in the squad that were in their first season in 2023 that are back again in 2024. 


That should be helpful for Lesesne and his staff as they look to bring D.C. United back to the postseason for the first time since 2019 and maybe even win a playoff match for the fist time since 2015.

 

Prediction

  • 12-9-13 MLS regular season record, 45 points, 8th in Eastern Conference, makes playoffs - Wild Card Match Round

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