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The Empire Strikes Back

4dc The Empire Strikes Back

For all the hullabaloo about the single entity structure of MLS through the years one club has always seemingly gotten it right- always seemingly done better than everyone else with regards to scouting and securing Latin American talent, developing a brand name south of the border and making significant inroads in the mainstream media at home. That club is of course DC United.

For many of our readers and listeners DC United is known by a four letter acronym: SCUM. They are the only MLS team to elicit such hatred because in-spite of the efforts of other clubs like the LA Galaxy to put themselves on a similar pedestal, DC United is the only club that’s earned both the envy and respect of its opposition since the league’s inception. The bottom line is this: Not only has DC won more MLS Cups and Supporters Shields than any other club, but they have won more truly meaningful international matches than the rest of the league combined. DC United is the only American club to have defeated a reigning South American club champion, the only club to have defeated an English Premier League club in England and the only club to have won more than a single road match in the history of the CONCACAF Champions Cup.

Now after back to back supporter shields coupled with early playoff exits, United wants more. Led by Kevin Payne, the most seasoned executive in the league, and Dave Kaspar whose scouting network is fully developed in Latin America, unlike many other MLS clubs who are just now taking scouting seriously the “Empire” (sorry Red Bulls fans- I know your SC is the Empire Supporters Club, but they not you are the real empire) is retooling and unlike other MLS clubs who have to sell the potential of the American market to players being sought, United can show off its trophy collection and its record of utilizing Latin players in a Latin oriented style better than anyone in MLS.

Yesterday’s massive signing of five players, four of whom come per the usual DC United scouting operation of finding Latin diamonds in the rough is a message to the league. Based on the history of Marco Ethceverry, Raul Diaz Arce, Christian Gomez, Facundo Erepen and Luciano Emilio, the rest of the league ought to be trembling in their boots about these acquisitions.  The fifth signing, Designated Player Marcello Gallardo is a bit riskier. Gallardo, unlike many MLS stars has actually had a good club career in Europe and was outstanding for River Plate. Gallardo also was a force for Argentina. However  by signing Gallardo, the Black and Red have parted ways with Christian Gomez, something I feel is risky. Gomez fit DC United like a glove and even though he is now 33, Gallardo whose club football has always been played for big clubs in big leagues (River Plate, Monaco, PSG) may or may not adjust to MLS. When you sign player straight away from Latin America, they often times acclimate themselves better than players coming from Europe, even if they are Latin. I cannot properly explain this phenomena, but based on twelve years of watching MLS I am sure it exists.

Regardless of how Gallardo works out in Washington, the other four signings indicate again that DC’s scouting network and reputation south of the border deemed the club ready to take advantage of the liberalized rules regarding international players in MLS, while the rest of the league scrambles to fill their squad.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC. View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →
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5 Responses to The Empire Strikes Back

  1. football detective says:

    Well said.

  2. football detective says:

    BTW – The players’ expressions in the photo are hilarious.

  3. I see that Gallardo is 32! Not much of an upgrade on a 33-year-old, is it?

  4. Kartik says:

    Great point, Phil! 32 versus 33. Not much of an upgrade.

  5. Soccer Guru says:

    DC United has been the beneficiary of freebies from the league. Ben Olsen, Chris Albright, Bob and Freddy Adu all threatened to sign overseas if not “given” to DC without going through the draft. That game you reference against Spurs was a friendly right in the middle of the EPL season. DC had talked their way into the game rather than the MLS sending a “select” team as we did the next year versus Real Madrid. The idea was for DC to get a weak EPL Team, beat them and then act like they were some super club.

    You have previously attacked the Galaxy for their hubris, but DC is the same. All these Latin players they sign are essentially told DC is the “Manchester United of the USA” which is a bald faced lie. What is true is that they scout and try and bring these guys in, but they lie to them to get them here.

    Now Gallardo signs with DC. The other day in the chat you said he’d never play for a team like New York but would come to America just to play for DC. You accuse the Galaxy of Hubris, but that statement backs up what I have been saying. Sure they do a good job but they get plenty of help as well from the league.

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