The DeMatha Stagline

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The DeMatha Stagline

The DeMatha Stagline

Lesesne Ball: How D.C. United went from last to playoff contention


Just six games into the 2024 MLS season, D.C. United are already off to a flying start in the new era of the organization. Under first-year head coach Troy Lesesne, the Red and Black are 2-2-4, suffering only one loss in their first seven matches before a 2-3 loss to Orlando at Audi Field on Saturday.

The club’s star striker, Christian Benteke, is tied for the MLS lead with six goals scored this season. In recent years, D.C. United have been one of the worst teams in the MLS. The club has not made the playoffs since 2019 and the last four seasons the team has been in the bottom three of the Eastern Conference. With the early form D.C. United has shown so far this season, many fans have begun to anticipate a potential playoff berth.

The summer of 2023 was an eventful one for D.C. United. The club’s administration decided to execute a complete revamp of the front office, coaching staff, and roster. This began by firing head coach and club legend Wayne Rooney. In his season and ah alf at the helm, Rooney led the club to a measly record of 14-14-25. D.C. United also parted ways with general manager Lucy Rushton after just two seasons. The club announced just two days later the hiring of Nashville FC’s Ally Mackay as the new general manager of the club. Mackay became the youngest general manager in MLS at just 37 years old.

Mackay went forth with the project laid out for him by the club’s administration by completing two trades during the offseason. He traded longtime D.C. United youngster Chris Durkin to St. Louis SC for Jared Stroud and Lucas Bartlett. Both Bartlett and Stroud are regular starters for the Red and Black and have contributed to the team’s success in a big way. The other trade Mackay made was a swap deal with CF Montreal. It sent Brazilian outside back Ruan to Montreal in exchange for former all-star defender Aaron Herrera. Now the vice-captain of the club in just his first year in D.C., Herrera is putting together an early case for another all-star year.

After finishing the revamp of the roster, it was time to complete the revamp of the coaching staff. On January 10, 2024, D.C. United officially named former New York Red Bulls assistant coach Troy Lesesne as head coach. Lesesne immediately stated that he wanted to bring a winning culture back to the city of Washington D.C. and went straight to work. Only two weeks later, the 2024 MLS SuperDraft happened.

In the draft, D.C. United held the 7th overall pick and desperately needed to use it on an impact player for this upcoming season. The club decided to pick Georgetown forward Jacob Murrell with their first-round pick. Murrell, originally from Annapolis, grew up a D.C. United fan and knew what the culture was and what winning meant to the club. Lesesne had officially made his first move as head coach of D.C. United.

Going into the new season, many people still had low hopes for the team. They were relying on career backup Alex Bono to start at goalkeeper for the season and they still had holes looming in the midfield. However, fans were utterly stunned after D.C. United started the season demolishing the New England Revolution 3-0. The constant pressure from the front three and the constant balls over the top to Christian Benteke was too much for the Revolution defense to handle. Fans began to call D.C.’s new style of play “Lesesne ball” and began to believe.

After tying the next two games away from home, the Red and Black lost their first game 3-1 to a stacked Inter Miami team that consisted of all-time legends Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba. Lesesne quickly got his team back on track by defending Audi Field against CF Montreal in a narrow 1-0 win.

Although the start of the year hasn’t been perfect for D.C. United, it has gotten the fans back to believing in the club and the future of the team. When asked about his thoughts on the season thus far, sophomore Max Guillen said, “This season has been like no other for D.C. I’ve been a fan my entire life and haven’t seen us play with so much heart ever. I really like what our new coach is doing and hopefully, it can lead to a playoff spot when the season is over.”

Many flaws still loom over D.C. United such as playoff inexperience and goalkeeping errors. However, Troy Lesesne and his “Lesesne ball” will make sure that when the month of October comes, D.C. United will be fighting hard and proud for a playoff spot.

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