The Wizards won't call the 2010 season a "rebuilding" season. And that's good. That means they don't want to throw in the towel early and provide a convenient excuse if results don't go their way.But with the mid-season coaching change, the off-season roster churn (12 players from last year's squad are gone, including the well-known faces of Claudio Lopez and Kevin Hartman) and the influx of international talent (nine -- or 10 -- new players were born outside the borders of the USA) it's going to be hard to find a word other than "rebuilding" that describes this process.They certainly aren't "remodeling."It's likely that the names and numbers on the back of the player's jerseys won't be enough to keep you from saying, at least twice, "Wait, who is that again?"So, in an attempt to clear up any confusion and formally introduce the newest Wizards, here is The Full 90's first-annual "Meet the Wizards" position-by-position preseason breakdown. We'll start with the last line of defense, the goalkeepers. Later on this afternoon, the defense.
You won't be seeing...Kevin Hartman
The man between the bars for every game the last three years and the MLS leader in saves is now in Dallas. His contract expired and he was traded for second-round selection in the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. Please a moment of silence for El Gato. Pardo was last year's back-up. I've been told he's now working as the KCW Juniors goalkeeper coach.
You will be seeing...Jimmy Nielsen (* projected starter)
· Pronounced: neel-sen
· Number: 1
· Born: August 6, 1977
· Hometown: Aalborg, Denmark
· Last Club: Vejle (Denmark)
· Acquired: Transfer
· Experience: 17th pro seasonOne of the deepest talent wells in American soccer is goalkeeper. So, it was just a wee bit surprising when the Wizards signed one from the lower leagues of Denmark. The thinking when the news broke: Why waste a precious international slot when there are talented American-born keepers just sitting around watching "Facts of Life" reruns?None of that matters now. Jimmy — or,Casino Jimmy
if you're so inclined — is really the only proven goalkeeper on the roster. And, while he may look a little like Hartman (what with the blond hair and similar size), he will have to work hard to replace Hartman, who by many accounts, was the team's MVP in 2009.First impressions:
There will be no middle ground with Jimmy. You'll either love him for his eccentric athleticism or curse him for his eccentric behavior. He seems prone to charging out of the net, making a fantastic challenge and then mucking up the clearance.Fun with the media guide:
"He will also go golfing occasionally, with sometimes disastrous results."Further reading: His wiki bio
.Further watching: A video interview with the Back Post. Erik Kronberg
· Pronounced: KRAWN-berg
· Number: 18
· Born: June 7, 1983
· Hometown: Santa Rosa, CA
· Last club: None
· Acquired: 4th round pick in 2006 MLS SuperDraft (#40 overall)
· Experience: 5th pro seasonKronberg has never seen a single minute of MLS regular season action and he missed all of 2009 recovering from shoulder surgery. Those are the negatives. The positives? He's a massive keeper (6'5") and, once he proved healthy, quickly displaced last year's backup Boris Pardo and trialist Louis Crayton during the preseason.First impressions:
I've only seen him play in a reserve capacity, but his command of the area seems to be solid and, given his size, he's able to defend the highest portions of the net.Fun with the media guide:
"Practices Tai Chi and Aikido in his spare time."
Overall feeling...Slightly uneasy.
I'd feel a lot more comfortable if Hartman were in goal (and our likely starter hadn't spent the last three years making less than 100 appearances while he bounced from the lower leagues of England to the lower leagues of Denmark). But I'm optimistic, because from every indication I've seen, Nielsen is loose and energetic. Good qualities for a keeper. His English isn't great, but it's better than my Danish.
Coming later today: A closer inspection of the backline.