Monday, May 27, 2013

Doing the Maths

The face paint and dipping dots on offer for the Sporting KC match meant no problems convincing the family to spend a Friday night welcoming Rodney Wallace back to RFK.  More face paint and more dipping dots allowed me to see number 22's game winner and Darlington Nagbe's goal.

Neither kid asked to leave.  Instead, after watching Pajoy sky a beautiful ball from DeRosario that had unlocked Portland's defense, I decided I was not having any fun.  I left the stadium angry, along with hundreds of other supporters.

One story supporters appear to be trying to convince themselves of now is that a cheap and apathetic front office has handcuffed the coaching staff.  As if it would matter if more high priced talent was sitting on the bench.  This is a team headed up by someone who is incapable of figuring out how to play the highest-paid player on the roster with Carlos Ruiz.  This is a team headed up by someone who would not play Branko Boskovic or Hamdi Salihi while perennially taking shots at the Rapid Vienna alums perceived fitness deficiencies.

But, sure, the front office sucks for not tossing more good money after bad.

With the Galaxy's 4-0 drubbing of the Sounders, the single table for the MLS looks like this:

Rankings Team Points
1 FC Dallas 27
2 Red Bulls 25
3 LA Galaxy 23
4 Montreal 23
5 Timbers 22
6 Sporting KC 22
7 Houston 21
8 Real Salt Lake 21
9 Colorado 19
10 Philadelphia 18
11 Columbus 16
12 New England 16
13 Seattle 15
14 San Jose 15
15 Vancouver 13
16 Chivas USA 11
17 Chicago 8
18 Toronto 7
19 DC United 5

And if you do the arithmetic for the MLS salaries published by the Major League Soccer Players Union through May 1st -- conceding that this listing doesn't reflect recent transactions -- it is true that at the highest levels, large team salaries correspond with the top of the table:

Rankings Team Salary
1 Red Bulls $10,860,961
2 LA Galaxy $9,685,263
3 Seattle $5,958,812
4 Montreal $5,452,074
5 Vancouver $4,809,279
6 Toronto $4,710,844
7 Chicago $4,333,356
8 FC Dallas $4,244,861
9 DC United $3,906,064
10 Philadelphia $3,832,575
11 Sporting KC $3,783,882
12 Houston $3,648,642
13 Real Salt Lake $3,646,401
14 Columbus $3,615,002
15 Timbers $3,564,502
16 New England $3,482,085
17 San Jose $3,371,908
18 Colorado $3,371,325
19 Chivas USA $2,607,147

But it doesn't exactly dictate D.C. United's position in the league table.  If for some reason you support Chivas, you can complain.  But you'd still be rooting for a team that has twice as many points  as D.C. United, for a third less in salary.

Olsen's Army.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Good Time

Supporting D.C. United has descended into torpor.  With Ben Olsen as coach and three former Terrapins on the roster, I cannot bring myself to get that angry about the team.  And complaining more that I have already done ain't exactly cathartic.  But, this is depressing and going to matches isn't a priority, even if we've paid for a season of tickets.

Still, we went yesterday to watch the match with Sporting KC, driven largely by the opportunity to see Graham Zusi in person again.  Come for the Zusi, stay for a D.C. United starting lineup of Taylor Kemp, Casey Townsend, and Ethan White (18% Maryland!).

Sure, Kemp was bizarrely substituted out at halftime rather than placed at left back with Daniel Woolard making way for Chris Pontius.  And, sure, just as space started to open in Sporting's defense in the final third, Casey was replaced by Lionard Pajoy -- a substitution at the hour mark that preceded a Kansas City corner kick that inevitably led to a goal.  Whatever.  At least I got to see Taylor and Casey play in a real game.

More to the point, whatever.  Because what happens on the pitch is, at this point, secondary.  While the club continues to be killed for supposed failings in building a competitive roster (really?), the team's management builds an even better gameday experience in a ridiculous environment. 

We watched the first half at the VW Club.  Waiting in the club?  An excellent face-painter for children, wonderful staff, and a neat little contraption composed of an elevated treadmill with dribbling cones.  If I had problems getting the kids up for going to a United match before, that obstacle has been removed.

After Townsend was withdrawn from the field of play, we walked up to the Champions Club for the rest of the second half.  It was our first time up in the newly christened space and delivers exactly what was promised -- no lines for good food and alcohol, lots of kids running around, and nice perspective from behind the goal opposite the VW Club.

It is RFK.  The stadium is dire.  D.C. United could get away with just letting everything crumble around them.  They don't.  Instead, the club does what it can with the space.  The club hasn't given up and is not asking supporters to suck it up until the pipedream of a new stadium comes to fruition.   No one is going to give the club's administration kudos for putting lipstick on a pig.  That's wrong.  Ben Olsen's United may be unimaginative and plodding, but D.C. United itself has built a little wonderland that is remarkably kid-friendly.