There is some meme going around the Internet called “Epic Fail.” I don’t know where it came from or if it has anything to do with cheeseburger-eating kittens, dancing hamsters, or all that other stuff makes me, a 25-year old, feel inexplicably old when it comes to the Internet.
Anyway, this Epic Fail thing seems quite appropriate for DC United’s year or so. As part of breaking down “DC United 2008 – EPIC FAIL,” I have assembled a chronology of the last 12 months or so. I suspect that you, like me, are going to be stunned that we had any expectation of success after the catalog of errors our front office made.
Try not to toss your computer through a wall as you read this.
- DC United does not get Joe Cannon, the goalkeeper it targeted, and instead settles for Zach Wells, and trades Bobby Boswell to get him. In the wake of Troy Perkins’ departure to Norway, United couldn’t get its first choice deal done and settled for the far inferior option in Wells, whose inconsistency plagued United throughout the first half of the season. Boswell this year has been a rock in the center of Houston playing more minutes and starting more matches than any other Dynamo player. Would his play have perked up like this if he had stayed in DC with a new contract? We’ll never know.
- Bryan Arguez transfers to Hertha Berlin – There is no way this move can work in the front office’s favor. Either, they gave up on a talented player too early rather than get a few decent years of play out of him before he went to Europe or Hertha doesn’t know what they are doing either by buying another failed DC United draft pick. If Arguez turns out not to be any good, remember that United could’ve had Brad Evans, Adam Christman, or Dane Richards with that pick. Instead, DC got $200,000 and nine reserve appearances out of their 11th pick of the draft.
- United fails to get Juan Veron, its target for over a year. For whatever reason, Veron got cold feet and left United in the lurch as to what to do with Gomez refusing terms of a new contract. We’ll probably never know what really happened here, but in the end, United didn’t get the man it wanted. Would Veron have been an improvement over Gallardo? Simply by staying healthy, I suspect the answer would’ve been yes.
Christian Gomez departs for Colorado, replaced by Marcelo Gallardo, DC United’s first ever designated player. Unlike with the Wells/Boswell move, I’d argue that both the departure and and arrival aren’t total failures here. Yes, Gallardo has been an unmitigated disaster and quickly climbing the ranks of not only DC United’s worst ever signing, but even as one of the worst signings in recent MLS history. (Yes, up there with Denilson). Yet, I am not sure Gomez, who has barely gotten off the bench in Colorado this year, would’ve been much better. He was never a 90-minute player here in DC, and his fitness wasn’t going to get any better as he gets further past 30. Right now, this may in fact be a case of United jettisoning a player right on schedule rather than hanging on to the player long after they’ve entered decrepitude. Now, if Gomez comes back next season and lights up the league then this move too will have been a total failure. For now, it’s just a massive failure. For this front office, as you’ll see, this should actually come as some consolation.
- United signs Jose Carvallo, Gonzalo Peralta, Gonzalo Martinez and Franco Neill. Okay let’s take this one at a time.
- Martinez settled in well in United’s backline and was one of the few consistent presences in the United lineup, playing the third-most minutes of any United player. His play hasn’t been perfect, but he has always tried and unlike nearly everybody else, stayed reasonably healthy throughout the year
- Peralta, despite having a whole season under his belt, still feels to me like a nearly unknown quantity after playing inconsistently in the few (15) appearances that we’ve seen him in. He might be good, he might not be good. Despite this season, I don’t think really know what he is at this point.
- Neill, this is the move that drives me the most insane because it was obvious that this wasn’t going to ever work no matter how much we overpaid for him. Not only was it evident that he was too small, but that he was not nearly physical enough to keep up in this league. Yes, he could jump high. But it was far too easy to push him off the ball. Anyone could see that even in training. This was the front office’s “I’m Keith Hernandez Moment” as Bill Simmons likes to call it. They got caught up reading their own hype and believed that they could make a player clearly not fit for MLS work in this league. Instead, he got dumped before the All-Star Game.
Carvallo, this move too was an utter failure, though one that didn’t have too big of financial repercussions. Carvallo never learned any English and never presented any kind of credible challenge to Wells’ hold on the goalkeeper position even as Wells struggled mightily.
- United drafts three players in the SuperDraft, with only one sticking on the roster. Their top pick at No. 24, Andrew Jacobson, fled almost immediately after the draft to Lorient in France. Again, this is another player that DC United wanted that they couldn’t keep their hands on. Ryan Cordeiro, who United got in the third round, did stick around and saw far more minutes than a player with his level of experience and apparent skill ever should in MLS. Whether Cordeiro turns out to be any good is still a very open question.
- United trades Greg Vanney to LA for Quavas Kirk – Now Kirk hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire here in DC, but this deal did dump a lot of salary and gave United a young American prospect, the likes of which we so rarely have possess. So far, this deal is hard to grade accurately but that’s okay. Kirk is only 20. Could we have used Vanney at the back this year? Maybe, but he wasn’t a great value.
- United signs Santino Quaranta – Now this the front office can legitimately take some credit for. Quaranta has been a good, if occasionally great, player for United this season. Not only that, but United signed him to an incentive-heavy deal that didn’t weigh on the salary cap very much. On a better team, I could’ve easily seen Tino work his way back into the USA picture this season. On this team, he was out position and over-relied on to create attacks. That said, he still did fairly well.
- United signs Francis Doe to add speed to forward line. Eh, he’s just okay. He is fast, but his finishing touch is inconsistent. One can argue that Doe’s most important contribution this year was recommending that United sign Louis Crayton.
- United signs Ivan Guerrero – He’s a good player but was it good thinking to sign a player that you know is going to get called up for every single week of Concacaf qualifying? It’s one of the effects of MLS playing through international matchdates, but when your team’s depth is already shattered, don’t you have to think twice about signing a guy that you already know will be missing x number of matches?
- United signs Joe Vide – Now, I like Vide a lot and written complementary things about him a lot. I think he’s a great, smart option off the bench or when you need to give Simms a rest. I hope he sticks around but really, it’s easy to overrate the quality of this acquisition by looking at the rest of the slop the front office threw against the wall this year. Can he start in this league? I doubt it.
United signs Louis Crayton – Finally, here is a deal I can get 100% behind. Yes, he had a horrendous error on Saturday, but his play overall has been night and day ahead of Wells. Plus, imagine him with a halfway competent defense in front of him. He’s a great presence on and off the field and it feels good to finally know that United has a medium to long term solution in goal.’
- United brings in parade of USLers and unknowns like Koroma, Khumalo, Thompson, etc. – Look, these were desperation signings of any warm bodies that United could fit under the cap. Will any of these guys stick on the roster? Who knows. Thompson is a USL players and Khumalo, so far, appears like nothing more than a third or fourth forward in MLS. At least this bunch didn’t cost much.
Look at the ratio of signings that worked to the ones that clearly didn’t. When you see it all laid out like that, it’s easier to see why United is struggling. Far too often this season, United couldn’t close deals on the players it wanted and instead had to go for second and third options. Also, some of those first choices just weren’t any good like Niell. United had its now typical failure of a draft and added to that a weight of expensive failed foreign signings like Gallardo and failed domestic deals like Wells. Add to that United’s terrible luck with injuries and callups (Why hasn’t Moreno retired from Bolivia yet?), and it’s no wonder that they’re unlikely to make the playoffs.
And, on top of all that, United paid a steep price early on for so dramatically blowing up its roster on the eve of the season. This again strikes me as a failure of the front office not to understand how much time it might take this many new arrivals to sort each other out.
I don’t think anyone can to come any other conclusion than that the front office had a D- of a season, with far more moves failing than succeeding. Does that absolve Soehn and the coaching staff of the blame? Not one bit, that’s just going to come in a future post.