Sunday, February 24, 2013

Maybe You Might Try Coaching

In nearly twenty years of living in the Washington DC area, I've managed to develop an affinity for all of two local professional franchises:  the Washington Mystics and D.C. United.

Like many Mystics supporters, we dropped our season tickets many years ago and only rarely make it to games.

D.C. United has been an automatic call.  Even with two young kids, there's never been a question as to whether we would renew our seats each season.

Not anymore.

The season begins next Saturday with the first home game a week after and we've let friends know that our seats are available, gratis, for anyone wants to use them.  Thus far, there is even less interest from our small circle of soccer supporters.

There were many great things about United's off-season:  acquiring Casey Townsend through trade, drafting Taylor Kemp and Evan Raynr, and signing Michael Seaton to a professional contract.  Add the return of Lance Rozeboom to full health, plus the two Brazilian Rafaels, and United was rolling into a new season stocked with quality young talent.

But from the very beginning, storm clouds loomed overheard.  United acquired a 33-year old John Thorrington as their only addition from the MLS re-entry draft in December.  Raynr, a talented passer with a good feel for the game, was set adrift after a brief look.  More recently, the team has added a 30-year old James Riley and 33-year old Carlos Ruiz to the roster.

The move for Ruiz has drawn the most ire from supporters, but the Riley acquisition was in the same vein.  The D.C. United that will take the field in 2013 is a cynical side led by a cynical coach that will play cynical soccer, measuring its value through "bite."

Ben Olsen is very charismatic.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the coach discuss his take on last season and his philosophy at a season ticket holder event this month.  I think that Andy Najar became a better player under his regime, and that the same is true for Chris Pontius, Perry Kitchen, and Nick DeLeon.   

But, like with Najar, I'd prefer to see Pontius and DeLeon move on and play somewhere else.

The attacking options available to complement Dwayne DeRosario, Pontius, and DeLeon are incredible:  both Rafaels are insanely skilled, Casey Townsend is an accomplished striker and a tireless worker, and Michael Seaton's shown that he's not intimidated by being in the first team side.  We've got as much a chance of seeing these guys as we did watching  Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi last year.

What we will "enjoy" instead is more Lionard Pajoy spelled by Carlos Ruiz, all the while being lectured on the unseen, unrecognized importance of these two veteran strikers and the purportedly unassailable truth of the physical demands of the M-L-S.

No matter how well Lance Rozeboom has played thus far, Marcelo Saragosa is going to get more time in the center of the midfield.

And it will all be in the service of wins; of returning D.C. United to the glory long left behind.  Maybe they make the playoffs again by being the hard team.  And maybe the club can build up its attendance with the new-found buzz borne from victories.  If so, my complaints and concerns are parochial and of no moment to D.C. United's management.

But if it doesn't work... if you lose while putting crap on the field while simultaneously pissing away young talent?

This year should mark the resurgence of a franchise that has cemented itself as part of the District of Columbia.  Absent the addition of a big-name designated player, the way United will build long-term excitement in the community is through its young stars supported by DeRo.

But why waste time coaching the kids if you can just wind up the old warhorses and claim one-nil glories?

I hope I'm made to eat these words as the season progresses.  But I doubt it.  And in the interim, if I want to see D.C. United's good young talent in action, we'll have to venture down to Richmond.

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