Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
With one (streamed) preseason match under our belts, we can now start to assess where the squad is and what's still needed. Let's start with the defense. Of course, we should meter our thinking with the realization that we're stilling missing some key pieces: Chris Wingert and Nat Borchers both remain out at current and are unlikely to feature in preseason preparations.
All told, we looked defensively able. Should this group be able to stay healthy — especially with Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert back in the mix — I'm not convinced that we're weaker last season. We added three major pieces in defense: Aaron Maund, Carlos Salcedo, and Lovel Palmer.
Maund looked effective, but does need some work: He can't expect to play too much this season, but if Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers both go down to injury — we've seen it before — he'll be thrust right into the action. In a more veteran side, I suspect he'll grow well, and he's got a great coaching staff behind him. Salcedo, similarly to Maund, could use a bit of work. He's still quite young, especially for a defender, but he has fantastic attributes. Perhaps a bit more discussion between the two and their full backs — the trialist on the right went missing regularly — would serve them well.
Palmer looked surprisingly effective at left back, stepping in ably and controlling play. He represents a less attacking option than, say, Kenny Mansally or Tony Beltran, but fits more in the approximate mold of Chris Wingert. It provides a bit of balance in defense, and that's no bad thing. How might he fare in the midfield? This is more of a question — if he does, indeed, get minutes there.
Kenny Mansally looked ever the swashbuckling left-back-forward-winger, breaking forward at opportune moments, tracking back, and being consistently fouled in the process. You never much want to see your players being fouled, but when it's in positions high up the pitch, and it's your left back, it does make one feel a bit safer about the bombastic runs.
Tony Beltran was hard to assess, as he wasn't terribly involved in build-up play — rather strangely, play continued to flow through the left side of the pitch, even without a Fabian Espindola out there to swing play. He's a proven entity, though, so I've no real worries there.
We also were treated to a pairing of Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Chris Schuler, who dealt well with challenges that came their way and organized the defensive shape of the side well. Truth be told, we weren't too tested once the match swung back into our favor, but a positive approach from your side's defense plays importantly into that.
The defense seems more complete than last year: We have four or five able options in the center, and we've got four out wide. Even without the power of a Jamison Olave, I'd venture to say that this has the potential to be a considerably better look.