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2013 D.C. UNITED SEASON PREVIEW
As one of the 10 flagship franchises of Major League Soccer, D.C. United is among the most successful soccer clubs in American history. The squad boasts 12 international and domestic titles to their credit and always in the thick of the hunt for the MLS Cup.  D.C. United is the only team in MLS history to win both the MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield trophies four times apiece.
After just narrowly missing out on an appearance in the MLS Cup, D.C. United is poised for another breakout year at RFK Stadium and fans have a series of important matchups on the horizon to look forward to, including games against defending MLS Cup Champion Los Angeles Galaxy, Sporting KC and the New York Red Bulls.

Although D.C. United has been one of the major powerhouses of the MLS for decades, the team has experienced one of the worst down periods in recent history, which was only just rectified during the 2012 season. After missing the playoffs for five straight years, the longest drought in franchise history, D.C. United returned to the MLS playoffs in 2012 and would go on a surprising run through the bracket, knocking off the New York Red Bulls but ultimately falling short against the Houston Dynamo in the semifinals.

Looking ahead to the 2013 season, head coach Ben Nelson believes that he finally has the pieces to contend for another MLS Cup Championship. The roster boasts an impressive risk of talented young players and savvy veterans, which could be the perfect recipe for postseason success. During the offseason, the club lost players like Branko Boskovic, Hamdi Salihi, Andy Najar and Emiliano Dudar, but managed to add a series of veterans like striker Carlos Ruiz, midfielder John Thorrington, fullback James Riley and striker Casey Townsend.

If D.C. United is going to make a run at the MLS Cup in 2013, it will be behind the strength of a balanced scoring attack and solid defense. Additionally, the team has to stay healthy throughout the year, as the squad endured the loss of 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario for the majority of the 2012 season. The team will also need to see continued growth from younger players like Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen and Chris Pontius, as well as second-year player Nick DeLeon, who set a club record in 2012 with six regular season goals.

Ultimately, the biggest strength for D.C. United, which has been the model for MLS franchises for years, is that the core of their squad has remained together throughout the offseason with a slew of smaller pieces that can improve the team's overall depth. The team's schedule is riddled with primetime matchups against prominent 2012 playoff teams like the Houston Dynamo, New York Red Bulls and Los Angeles Galaxy, as well as up-and-coming squads like the Columbus Crew and Montreal Impact. Luckily for D.C. United fans, if it all comes together on the field, the team has as good a chance as any in the league to make a serious run at another MLS Cup.

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9/20/2014 1:48:29 AM on TCWEB1