DC United – a club in decline

Tonight’s US Open Cup final showed yet again that DC United is quite simply a club in decline. An organization that once prided itself on winning MLSCups and succeeding abroad now pounds its chest about consolation trophies and about its increasingly distant successful past.

Tonight, United looked like a team that both was not as good as its opposition and one that simply is not listening to its coach anymore. Its mere appearance in this final comes only as a result of it playing minor league teams all the way up to this point and not even looking all that good while doing that. There was no merit in reaching this final, only in winning it.

United’s players make mental errors time and time again, whether it’s Janicki pulling a matador move in front of his own goal to Josh Wicks handing Seattle the Open Cup tonight with his stupid and vicious stomp on Freddy Montero. Highly-paid experienced players like Luciano Emilio and Fred have regressed and play like guys who want nothing more than to not get hurt, get done with the season and cash their check. Young players like Pontius, Wallac, Simms, and even Szetela languish under a coach who has never shown an ability to develop young talent. Sure, there are some true character guys out there, folks like Olsen, Namoff, and Quaranta. Our foreign “stars” are either past their prime or have never close to reaching it. They suck up our salary and strangle this club’s ability to grow, evolve, and adjust during a season. On top of that, our best players their efforts to lead blocked by the constant tinkering with their minutes, strange lineups, and unpredictable vacillations of a coach who is starting to see the water rise above his head.

The organization as a whole has become a shell of what once was the flagship club in Major League Soccer. Crowds have langished as underachievement on the field and the continued failure to find a proper home have strangled the life out of the club. United’s management has continuously failed to address on-the-field problems such as the squad’s age, lack of speed, and total lack of defensive consistency. The organization has refused to make changes in order to bring a sense of accountability to a playing squad and to a coaching staff making far too many mistakes. Rather than do the intelligent thing and rebuild, United has stuck its head in the sand and attempted to wring more years out of core talent that is past its prime and a supporting cast that is far too unproven.

We deserve to be a laughingstock tonight, everyone affiliated with United does. Tonight, and this season, all of us will pay for this club’s arrogance and incompetence. This includes its refusing to rebuild this team around the kind of young athletic talent that tends to succeed in this league, or refusing to evaluate the coaching staff’s ability to improve its players and its petty and wholly unnecessary shouting match with Seattle’s front office that turned this Open Cup final into both a must win match, and a referendum on this club’s ability to function on and off the field.

On both counts tonight – DC United failed. While the gate 17,000 here at RFK was a good crowd, there is no doubt Seattle would have drawn more – even at 1 in the afternoon. United had to bring out every trick in the promotional book just to get 17k here on a perfect Wednesday evening. There was a time when it wasn’t that hard.

People, even diehard supporters like me, have lost faith in this club’s ability to be what it once was – a leader. This club has lost me, not as a supporter, but as a believer. I hope this match proves as a chastening experience for folks up and down the organization. I hope that people like Kevin Payne realize that this team needs to be rebuilt on the field, in the coaches, and with regards to the stadium effort. United needs to be reborn as a quicker, leaner, less proud group that wants to be atop American soccer, rather than constantly shouting to folks how its already there.

The fact is, DC United doesn’t win trophies anymore. It certainly doesn’t win valuable ones. We did that once back some years ago. We can do it again.

We can’t do it without rebuilding – without a rebirth of this club I’ve seen since its start.

I used to know deep down that our organization could and would succeed at big tasks like that. Now, after watching an incompetent coach lead under talented players on it while the club flounders in its hunt for the stadium, I am not so sure.

I hope the club can prove me wrong. I hope next year we see a new DC United, with a new coach and a new mentality. I hope a see a club succeed with a new stadium to provide with a viable future here in the area.

I want to be proven wrong. I want my fears to be proven unfounded. It’s not that I don’t support United anymore. It’s that I no longer believe in DC United anymore.

I never thought I’d say those words.

It’s too bad.

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19 thoughts on “DC United – a club in decline

  1. DC entered the season as a seemingly below average team with little potential to be great. All but 3 of the top 16 players were either young and unproven, coming back from a season (or seasons) of injury, or slow/older players trying to hold off inevitable decline (namoff, simms, and maybe McTavish being the possible exceptions). Brian Namoff might be the only player that could have been reasonably expected to be above average at his position over the course of the season. The hope was that Crayton would solidify the goalkeeping, Fred would come back healthy and a force, Janicki would be able to anchor the defense, some of the young players (Jacobson, Pontius, Wallace, Jakovic) would develop quickly, and the old guys (Moreno, Gomez, Emilio, maybe even Ben Olsen) could hold on.

    Crayton and Janicki were utter failures, but the DC brass was saved by Wicks and Jakovic surpassing expectations (imagine what might have happened if Wells hadn’t retired). Fred, Emilio, and Moreno have, not surprisingly, been a little worse than last year and at times quite bad. Gomez has probably overachieved compared to last season and/or reasonable expectations. Pontius, Wallace, Quaranta and Olsen all contributed more than I think most would have expected. Everyone else has been exactly what they looked like they would be.

    All in all, I think DC has done better than they should have and gotten pretty lucky. No prolonged injuries to top players, young guys coming in ready to contribute, more from Olsen than anticipated, and a retread goalie from LA occasionally standing on his head. The coaching has been poor, the development seems to have hit a bump in the road, and the talent and athleticism are just not high enough.

    When everything you can not predict goes pretty well, maybe even better than you hoped for and you still aren’t good enough, the finger has to point at the coach and the front office.

  2. Wicks’ cheap shot on Montero is another indicator. DC always played with class, but stomp to Freddie’s midsection let’s me know that Wicks is not in control and neither is Soehn.

  3. The rot that has been torturous to watch (Concacaf anyone ?) with lack of discipline and substandard play of talented players -falls squarely on the coaches shoulders.

    Like you, Aaron, I have lost faith in the club – not my support for their well being.

    I am concerned that this club is in decline – and there is no hope in sight – no stadium, no designated player (Aaron Edit: Emilio is our DP) and no growing fan base.

    Last night’s Cup was a window to the old and the new …

    time for surgery.

    EDIT: Josh Wicks needs anger management. After a suspension of course.

  4. Very well said! Sad, but true! I love this team, but am growing weary of being disappointed match after match! Even the joy of beating the Fire on Sat. was marred by the Wick’s attack on Burch! I can understand his frustration at the constant barrage of shots coming his way, but – be professional! I just hope that keeping Soehn(et all) hasn’t ruined our promising rookies, Pontius & Wallace! When you combine this with last season’s debacle you can also conclude that the FO also needs a major shake-up!

  5. It is too late in the season for a roster overhaul. So a new coach is needed now, not at season’s end. Then you can see if, for example, Fred and Emilio truly suck. Plenty of these players have shown plenty of talent or promise in the past. A new coach now gives them one last chance to show up.

    Player/Coach Ben Olsen!

  6. Thanks for that. I am ready to continue supporting DC United through a transition. It will be a painful process, but it’s gotta happen. I’m not so interested in the status quo.

    Wicks isn’t the only one I’ve seen acting poorly out there this season. Players arguing with each other and having temper tantrums on the field has been a regular feature this season. This team doesn’t just need a new coach, they need a diaper change.

    Also, one of the greatest features of being a DC United fan in the past has been seeing our team do well in international competition. That having been said, I’m glad that we most likely won’t be going to CONCACAF next year. The whole process has become an embarrassment but I am still too devoted a fan not to watch. Can you imagine what United would be like if we had been in Superliga again this year? shudder

  7. Great post and great coment. I will also stick it out, but I fear that the team will continue to worsen before it improves. I am not sure that the salary cap is large enough, nor the pool of willing talent big enough to make the changes neccessary to turn this around in a timely manner.

  8. Player-coach Ben Olsen!?!?!?!?! One can only shudder at the level of pouting, gesturing and whining at the referees we could look forward to if Crybaby Ben was the coach.

  9. Ignoring your false comments about Ben Olsen, do you really think United is better off with Tom Soehn at the helm? I’d rather have Olsen as a player/coach right now. He may not be the greatest tactical coach of all time, but neither is the current guy. At least Benny has heart and loves the team, the guys, and the organization.

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