You would never expect a club as proud as DC United or a leader as successful as Kevin Payne to admit that a year ago they made a horrible mistake. But yesterday’s actions prove they don’t have to. One year after being traded to Colorado, thus ripping the soul of a back to back Supporters Shield winning team right out of the team, Christian Gomez is back at RFK Stadium.
Last year the case was made that Gomez had failed to get the red and black over the top in the MLS Cup playoffs. In a move totally uncharacteristic of Kevin Payne’s steady leadership, United panicked and overturned significant portions of its squad. The three most notable moves were dumping Christian Gomez, Bobby Boswell and Brian Carrol and replacing them with Marcello Gallardo, Gonzalo Peralta and Gonzalo Martinez. All three moves were in hindsight, terrible mistakes.
Gomez excelled with the Colorado Rapids before Fernando Clavijo was replaced as manager by Gary Smith from Arsenal, an English manager who employed English styled tactics. The Rapids surged but without Gomez who was left on the bench.
In the meantime, DC United was sputtering. Marcello Gallardo who scored an important PK in the shootout in Argentina’s win over England at France 98 and whom had a good career himself at the European club level was first slow in adopting to MLS and then once he got comfortable, was often injured. United’s backline was a mess and Luciano Emilio wasn’t getting the service he needed to score goals regularly. Tom Soehn had so many problems he even moved club legend Jaime Moreno into a central midfield position, a place where Moreno had never played in his long and storied career.
The deal gives the Rapids Ivan Guerrero, MLS vet and regular for Honduras one of the best national teams in CONCACAF. With Colin Clarke already on the left side it will be interesting to see where Guerrero plays in Gary Smith’s setup. Perhaps, he plays right behind the strikes and Terry Cooke moves to the right?
Kevin Payne, perhaps the greatest team builder in MLS history had for the first time in his career failed miserably with a project. But the mark of a genius, which Payne is when it comes to MLS is to quickly rectify the situation. In trading for Gomez and giving up a DP slot originally acquired from the Rapids for Gomez, Payne and United have demonstrated they understand starting over isn’t really starting over.