D.C. United's search for its sixth head coach has come to an end and D.C. has settled on a coach with plenty of ties to the club.
D.C. has hired Curt Onalfo as its new head coach and could announce the decision as early as today, sources told SBI on Monday. The decision comes two months after former head coach Tom Soehn pulled himself out of the mix to return and two weeks after Caleb Porter turned down the job, choosing instead to stay at the University of Akron.
Onalfo will take charge after having spent two and a half seasons as head coach of the Kansas City Wizards before being fired last August. He took a KC team that hadn't reached the playoffs in two straight seasons and led it to the post-season in each of his two full seasons in charge. The Wizards lost to the eventual MLS Cup champion both years.
A 40-year-old cancer survivor, Onalfo takes over an underachieving D.C. United team that has failed to reach the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. The current D.C. squad is at a crossroads, with Ben Olsen having just retired, former MLS MVP Luciano Emilio looking like a good bet to leave MLS and aging stars Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez reaching the ends of their careers. With an infusion of quality young talent that includes Chris Pontius, Rodney Wallace and Danny Szetela, as well as the recent signing of Salvadorean winger Christian Castillo, Onalfo will have the task of turning D.C. into a serious contender in the Eastern Conference.
No stranger to D.C. United, Onalfo spent two of his four seasons as a player in MLS with D.C. United, including the 1999 season when D.C. won MLS Cup. His coaching career began as an assistant with D.C. for two seasons under head coaches Thomas Rongen and Ray Hudson before leaving to join Bruce Arena's staff with the U.S. national team.
Onalfo's hiring leaves two MLS head coaching openings as we head toward the new year. The New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire are without coaches, though both are expected to have coaches in place before next month's 2010 MLS Draft. The Red Bulls are believed to be considering a handful of European candidates, while Chicago is considering foreign options as well as former D.C. head coach Tom Soehn.
There is no word yet on who will make up Onalfo's coaching staff, though recently-retired Ben Olsen is expected to be considered for a position as an assistant. Long-time assistant Mark Simpson is also a candidate to remain with the club, though there are rumors that he could leave D.C. to join Frank Yallop's staff with the San Jose Earthquakes.
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