Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Should the center defender come back?
Frederic Brillant just finished his second season pairing with Steven Birnbaum in central defense, and it was another solid one. The Frenchman came to D.C. United after he was deemed no longer necessary for New York City FC; United sent $75,000 in General Allocation Money and an international roster spot to New York for his rights, and he was signed on December 11, 2017. The team is currently in negotiations to bring him back for the 2020 season, in anticipation that he spends his third season anchoring the back line.
Just like we said in the article on Steven Birnbaum, D.C. United had the fewest goals allowed in the Eastern Conference and the second fewest in the entire league. Whereas Birnbaum was the beast in the air, tied for the most aerials won in the entire league, Brillant was similarly excellent at clearances. He notched 6.2 clearances per game, just behind Lalas Abubaker of the Colorado Rapids.
He was also good at putting his body in the right place to block shots, marking ninth in the league with 1.1 blocks per game. Moreover, those blocks always seemed to come at critical times, when Bill Hamid could have been beat if the ball had gotten past Brillant. For one example, see this play in which he saved a point for D.C. United this summer against the Chicago Fire:
There was only one game that he didn’t start this year, a mid-April game against the Colorado Rapids when Ben Olsen was trying to find any solution to his injury crisis on the back line. However, he subbed on in the 71st minute and started every other game this year.
His continued starts depend on two major factors: the progression of Donovan Pines this offseason and whether or not Father Time comes for Brillant. He is a player that relies more on good positioning and reactions rather than raw athleticism, but he will be turning 35 next summer. Bobby Boswell’s last season was when he turned 34 and made one appearance for Atlanta United. Chad Marshall, long a stalwart for the Seattle Sounders, retired in the middle of the season this year at the age of 35. This season was solid basically all year for Brillant, but you never know when it will fall off a cliff.
Personally, I want Brillant back next year for continuity, but he will be tested in the preseason. If he keeps his spot, he will have earned it.
What do you all think?