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Improved United hopes to make postseason return
Washington, D.C. (Sports Network) - June 27, 2011 was a definitive date for D.C. United last season, and it could still prove to have a lasting impact into 2012.

That infamous midseason day marked the arrival of Dwayne DeRosario, who United picked up in a trade with Red Bull New York.

D.C. could not have envisioned what would follow as DeRosario caught fire in the second half of the season, netting 13 goals in 18 appearances with the club and sealing Most Valuable Player honors for the first time in his illustrious MLS career.

With a proper offseason to get acclimated with his teammates, there is no reason why the Canadian can't replicate that sublime form in the new season, especially with the moves made by the United front office in the offseason.

DeRosario was one of the few experienced components of a youthful D.C. United squad in 2011, but head coach Ben Olsen helped facilitate a stronger balance between up-and-coming talent and well-traveled veterans.

United added towering Argentine defender Emiliano Dudar, former Real Salt Lake defender Robbie Russell, and Brazilian holding midfielder Marcelo Saragosa to help shore up a defense that conceded 52 goals in the 2011 regular season, fourth-worst in the league.

Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic formed a promising partnership in central defense down the stretch for D.C. last year, leaving playing time in the back line for 2012 up for grabs.

The club also splashed on a Designated Player in February, signing Albanian striker Hamdi Salihi to help alleviate some of the scoring pressure that hangs over DeRosario.

D.C. will be without one of its star strikers from last season as Charlie Davies is returning to French side Sochaux after spending the 2011 campaign on loan with the RFK outfit. But the club may have found an adequate replacement to compliment DeRosario and Salihi in Maicon Santos, who joined United via free agency in January. The Brazilian scored a total of eight goals in 2011, featuring for both Toronto FC and FC Dallas.

In addition to the new faces at the club, D.C. will need to see a return on its investment in Branko Boskovic and a return to form by Andy Najar.

Boskovic, who was signed to a Designated Player contract in 2010, has yet to score a goal in 17 appearances for United. He has been limited by injuries, but if he can't produce than it may be time for the club to cut its losses on the Montenegrin.

Najar, meanwhile, enjoyed a stellar debut season in MLS that saw the Honduran take home the Rookie of the Year award in 2010. The high expectations surrounding Najar for 2011 were not met and D.C. paid the price with a very slow start to the campaign. But as a truly explosive talent, the youngster could turn on the flare and dominate play at any point in time.

2011 IN REVIEW: D.C. United looked dead in the water, but DeRosario helped ignite the club's charge for a postseason appearance with some superb form following the All-Star Game. Unfortunately, it fell just short after taking one point from its last six league games to finish in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 39 points.

ACQUISITIONS: Danny Cruz (M), Nick DeLeon (M), Emiliano Dudar (D), Robbie Russell (D), Hamdi Salihi (F), Marcelo Saragosa (M), Maicon Santos (F).

LOSSES: Brandon Barklage (M), Blake Brettschneider (F), Marc Burch (D), Steve Cronin (GK), Devon McTavish (D), Joseph Ngwenya (F), Santino Quaranta (F), Clyde Simms (M), Jed Zayner (D).

OUTLOOK: D.C. has all the makings of a playoff-worthy team. The back line has been upgraded with experience and some pieces have been acquired to provide DeRosario with some help. United is not an MLS Cup contender by any means, but it could very well end its four-year drought without a postseason berth.

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