Since 1996 Kevin Payne has had a tried and tested formula that has made DC United the envy of Major League Soccer and the only American club to reach a certain stature in Latin America. Payne has used his extensive scouting contacts and his knowledge of the Latin game to import some of the finest diamond in the rough type players you’ll ever find. The 2007 MLS season was no exception as unheralded Brazilian journeyman forward Luciano Emilio set the league ablaze scoring five goals in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and twenty league goals en route to league MVP honors.
Since the inception of the league, DC United has won more international trophies and international matches on foreign soil than all other MLS clubs combined. While the former San Jose/current Houston franchise has set the pace recently within the league, DC United and to a lesser extent the L.A. Galaxy have been the trailblazers towards bringing some sort of respectability to a league viewed by many across the globe as an ugly stepchild of world football. However, it seems United was ready throw that all away on a splashy signing that quite honestly would have done nothing to enhance the quality of DC United’s squad.
Juan Sebastian Veron was a big money bust at Manchester United, and Chelsea. His play in Serie A was solid but unspectacular and while he’s been solid since returning to Argentina, the speed of the game in MLS would likely lead him at 32 to be flustered as he often was on the ball in England. The skill level of the Serie A and Argentine leagues are probably about ten times what it is in MLS, and Veron’s skills are unquestioned. But his decision making and composure when challenged in faster pace league which MLS is except during the hot summer months would probably render him a big money bust come playoff time for DC United.
It is entirely possible however that United was chasing Veron simply for the Champions Cup and Superliga, two trophies DC United is certainly anxious to chase in 2008. However, spending big money has never been DC United’s formula and the collapse of the Veron deal at the very last minute almost certainly will work out for the the Red and Black. Unlike other MLS clubs whose scouting network is now being developed, United has the infrastructure to chase cheaper and more team oriented options to fill either its DP spot or any open foreign player slot that may come from the potential departure of Christian Gomez. Simply put, DC United seems to always get its international signings right, so the club unlike others in MLS doesn’t have chase “sexy” names to be successful.