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Whither DC United???

wicks Whither DC United???

It is not debatable that MLS’ signature team has taken hits to its aura in the last two years. An ongoing stadium crisis which sees DC United caught in a political football and in the crossfire of a local newspaper whose hypocrisy seems to be never ending. Add to that the Red and Black’s poor performances in continental competition (where DCU previously distinguished itself in a way other MLS teams had not) and continued struggles in MLS.

Additionally, the club for the first time perhaps in its history had flamed out in the international transfer market last year and ended up using the MLS Superdraft and the re-acquisition of Christian Gomez from within MLS to upgrade the team for 2009. This is particularly significant because in the past, United had a stronger scouting network which lent itself to better international signings than any other MLS club. DC United was a destination for many a foreign player, while the rest of MLS was either a stopping point or simply laughed at. In other words, DCU had a reputation beyond that of the rest of the league outside the US and Canada.

United was fortunate to win a controversial 2008 US Open Cup Final against Charleston, and benefited in that tournament as they did in this one from US Soccer’s bizarre, closed door selection policy for choosing Open Cup venues.

But when United suffered defeat on its home ground Wednesday Night, you couldn’t help but think the Red and Black which made this league what it is today, is perhaps now just another MLS team.

Seattle and Houston are the new darlings of MLS, and the new symbols of the league’s success. Both clubs have shown a competitiveness and quality that elevate them to the top of the pack in North American club football.  The perch that was established by DCU beginning in 1996 and right through a Supporters Shield win in 2007 has been taken up by other clubs.

While United had struggled between 2000-2003, those teams were rebuilding and largely gutted by the MLS Salary Cap. For the first time in league history, the Red and Black are struggling thanks to moves they have made when on an equal playing field with the rest of MLS.

Perhaps Tom Soehn is over his head as the manager of United. I’ll withhold judgment on this issue until after the MLS Regular Season concludes. But United has lost its mojo and beginning tonight with a trip to Frisco to play FC Dallas, the club needs to regain its footing.

This entry was posted in DC United, Leagues: Major League Soccer. Bookmark the permalink.

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 →

11 Responses to Whither DC United???

  1. todd says:

    10 years of being the darlings of the league and they hit a couple rough years and you’re saying they’re out? While they lost the Open Cup, they still had 17,000 fans there, ~2,000 of which were in their ravenous supporters sections. Gomez and Moreno are old and their last DP was a bust. No reason to fret. Pontius and Wallace are easily in the top rookie XI this year, and if Szetela and Quaranta figure out the system they’ll be fine.

  2. todd says:

    also… you meant Columbus and Houston, right?

    • BC says:

      Columbus?? Who’s that?? The only time I’ve ever seen Columbus mentioned is when there is talk that they need to be relocated because they play in a small market… oh, and it’s their fault the TV ratings were so bad for last year’s final…

  3. Grunthos says:

    It seems to me you could call this a glass half empty or a glass half full.

    I think those who complain that the DC front office doesn’t know what it is doing are being very selective with their evidence… Rodney Wallace, Chris Pontius, and Dejan Jakovic aren’t exactly chopped liver when it comes to player acquisitions. The current United squad doesn’t suck.

    I think it is very fair to say that the rest of the league has really started to catch up to the standard DCU has set. Which is a good thing, because most of the first decade of MLS saw clubs struggling to meet even that minimal bar.

    As for “losing their mojo”… well, I’m sorry, but DCU has had a lot of games this year where the standard DCU style and quality has been on display. And that style is still more sophisticated than any other on-field product in MLS. Including Seattle and Houston.

    Fundamentally, Payne and Kasper made a decision this year to try to squeeze one more good season out of the attacking core of Emilio, Fred, Moreno, and Gomez. I can’t blame them for taking that route. We saw on Wednesday that those guys are, as a group, simply too old to carry the squad to victory when it counts now. Unless DC’s management is blind, and we don’t have any evidence that they’ve suddenly lost their ability to make solid judgements about talent, you’ll see some significant changing of the guard this winter. But the team has young talent as well, so I don’t think it would be fair to suggest that DC is out of the running for the 2010 title.

    If, by this time next season, DC is still inconsistently puttering along in mid-table, then I think you will be in a position to re-post this article and have it be a lot more accurate and timely.

    As a native of Maryland, I’ve grown up watching sports traditions die, first the theft of the Colts, then the demise of the Oriole Way. It happens. Leagues where these traditions don’t come to an end are rightly derided as uncompetitive (see: La Liga, the New York Yankees). Certainly, if MLS is to continue to grow as a league, then DCU will face an uphill battle to maintain “signature” status. Realistically, no one should want it any other way. But I think it’s a little bit early to be writing epitaphs.

  4. Grunthos says:

    Oh, and grammar nazi time, it’s “whither.” Unless the pun was intentional. ;)

  5. The pun was intentional, but upon reflection it was silly and I am changing the title……:)

  6. Oscar says:

    Isn’t this a good thing? One of the primary goals of MLS was to have no Chelseas, no Bayerns, no Yankees. I think the real story here is that MLS has succeeded in this goal, and a new season means it’s truly anyone’s game, even for an expansion. And yeah yeah yeah, Seattle was a successful USL team blah blah blah…but put yourself in Portland’s shoes, wondering if 1. an expansion team can start with a bang (as so many MLS expansions have) and 2. whether you could take a weekend jaunt to Seattle and wipe that smug look off the Sounders’ faces.

    And hey, if a team as old as DC got to the Open Cup in a notably anti-dynasty league, that to me doesn’t say your better days are all in the past; that to me says you still got it.

  7. LI Matt says:

    One of the primary goals of MLS was to have no Chelseas, no Bayerns, no Yankees.

    Yes. We don’t have a Chelsea or a Bayern or a Yankees who use their financial muscle to overpower their competition. We do have a DC and a Houston who have built consistent winners through superior scouting and tactical management.

  8. Kartik Mehta says:

    Sometimes I do wish we had a dominant team that could genuinely compete for international accolades…but there’s as many pros as cons for the equality debate

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