With the formal announcement that United now has Franco Niell (Post, Times) on loan for the 2008 campaign, United has a decent sense of what they look like up-top and in front of the nets. Midfield and Defense are now the concerns, and training starts in less than a week. As Haydon says in the Times:
United is expected to make other key signings this week — possibly bringing in Peruvian goalie Jose Carvallo and Colombian defender Gonzalo Martinez — to replace goalie Troy Perkins and defender Bobby Boswell, both of whom recently left the team.
Also not finalized is the status of Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez. If Moreno doesn't sign (and most rumors say he will), at least United is now looking to be able to field two options at forward with Niell and Emilio. Would I prefer Moreno be part of a triumvirate of strikers? Yes. But at least I don't need to worry about a hole up-top.
The Gomez question is far more interesting. It is clear that United believes they have a Plan B, but there's a well known cliche about plans involving humans and rodents. I am still of the feeling that Gomez will be back, but I haven't moved from a 60% confidence level in that feeling.
Defensively, the signing of Martinez would almost be a one-for-one swap with the still unsigned Greg Vanney. That gets us out of the hole in the defense situation, but it does not address depth, which I know I have gone on far too much about with respect to the backline. But our defenders do get injured (hernias being a specialty), and carded, and games will be missed.
So what do I want to see? Get the rumored signings done, get Gomez or the Plan B option, add a wide threat in midfield, and another quality back. Is that too much to ask? Okay, probably it is. This is MLS, and rare is the team that can address all of its needs. Which is probably why coaching matters more in the this league than in others. In other leagues, you acquire the players and put them out there, and most teams will acquire players to address all levels of their team. With MLS, it seems every team will have one area where they are better than most of the league, and one area where they are far behind (Houston is an exception which proves the rule here). That makes tactical decisions almost as important as strategic decisions, since from week to week your comparative strengths and weaknesses will change.
Let me be clear - I am not worried about putting out a quality side right now. We don't have a dominant side, a side that I would say is the odds-on favorite for another Supporter's Shield run, but I don't think we have to worry much about being the laughing stock we were in 2002. We'll be competitive, and then we can take stock again. The interesting thing is that if we did manage to hit all items on the wish-list, this team could look very intimidating indeed.