From MLS flag bearers to MLS basement dwellers; DC United finished a disappointing 16th place last season. They amassed a lowly 22 points, while the next closest team Chivas USA finished on 28. Even expansion Philadelphia Union finished higher. No time in DC's long proud history have things been this dismal. How could things get worse?
Prior to last season DC supporters thought the same thing. However, they got worse by the managerial appointment of the directionless Curt Onalfo. Though he was a DC boy, all DC execs had to do was speak to the Sporting KC fans and see how Onalfo had done little to advance their club. Onalfo brought in Kurt Morsink and Adam Cristman from Sporting KC, and watched both do little in a dire season for the four time MLS Cup winners. He signed Christian Castillo who only played 10 matches and was released in June. Onalfo also brought in Danny Alsopp who did marginally better scoring five goals in 20 matches. It took about eight months for Onalfo to lose his job with United. The only thing good that can be said about Onalfo is he brought through MLS's prized young talent Andy Najar; who won the league's Rookie of the Year award. This could be credited to the club hierarchy and not Onalfo, however. But how long will he be around as several European clubs have been sniffing.
Enter DC's former talisman Ben Olsen as interim coach. Olsen was able to turn DC around slightly, though the team finished dead last in the league. Olsen was then told he wouldn't be considered for the permanent manger's job, but DC have done a U-turn and given Olsen the position. But why is that? Most likely it is because DC couldn't find anyone to take over the sinking ship that they are. United have, arguably, been on the decline since 2006 when they won the Supporter's Shield and reached the semi-finals of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Though DC won the Supporter's Shield again in '07 they limped to the finish line and went out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals. The team has brought in plenty of players who showed promise early and faded. The likes of Luciano Emilio, Fred and Marcelo Gallardo (the club's first DP) all showed promise, but fell to the wayside; some sooner than others. With the money the club has spent and talent they have had it's hard to believe they could be in the position they are in. But bad signings, scouting and player development seem to have caught up with the club.
A lot of long time DC fans are excited about Olsen taking over full time. But I think they're looking at this appointment with nostalgic eyes as Olsen was a fantastic patron for DC United as a player. Many fans screamed for him to be given the position after the season and now they've gotten their wish; but be carefully what you wish for. DC United were looking for a big name or at least a manager from abroad. Many teams are quite envious of what New York was able to do with Hans Backe and would like to emulate that feat. The appointment of Olsen seems more like a scapegoat than a wise move, however. Firstly, you have an inexperienced manager (does he even have coaching badges?) who is 33 years old. He is the same age as
Josh Wolff who was selected in the re-entry draft. Olsen maybe able to rally the youngsters around him early on, but what senior players are going to get behind a manager nearly the same age. Moreover, players like Clyde Simms have played along side Olsen and it's very difficult to look at someone from being your peer to being your boss. Secondly, if and when Olsen's DC results don't go well this gives DC owner William Chang the chance to say I told you so to supporters that screamed for Olsen's name.
Andy Najar has signed a new contract with DC and will hopefully be able to keep him for the foreseeable future. The team has also signed Dax McCarty in a trade for Rodney Wallace during the MLS Expansion Draft. This was strong acquisition. Wallace is a player who has shown promise, but truly has not developed into a strong MLS left sided player. McCarty deemed excess goods in Dallas now finds himself as the player DC could build their midfield around. However, since the trade was finalised it seems McCarty has become the best midfielder in MLS the way he has been spoken about by MLS insiders, bloggers and experts. It seems there aren't enough superlatives when some write about McCarty these days. In the last couple weeks DC has worked a trade with Portland to send goalkeeper Troy Perkins for allocation money and Steve Cronin. There could be three reasons for this: Perkins had a terrible past season, DC will give Bill Hamid the number one shirt or Perkins' harsh words about DC's lack of professionalism last season. Perkins gave an
interview with ESPN in which he criticised DC management and this could be the reason he was moved. DC United has been reportedly shopping around some of their veterans like Clyde Simms, too. Simms is a quality MLS central midfielder and there aren't many better defensive midfielders in the league. But this could be DC turning over their roster to get a losing mentality out of the dressing room.
DC have not only had problems on the field, but there are still possibilities they could move to Baltimore. There is no clearer a picture of DC moving out of the cavernous RFK, and rumors continue to circulate the team could relocate to Baltimore. This would be a true shame, but I for one can see the club relocating and looking for greener pastures.