Monday Kickoff: On D.C. United, Bunbury and more

DC United Team (ISIphotos.com)

Photo by ISIphotos.com

Where is D.C. United headed?

That question hangs over a franchise with a trophy case unmatched by any team in Major League Soccer. Two straight seasons of missed playoffs, a vacant head coaching post and a handful of retired, aging or soon-to-be-leaving stars has D.C. facing an off-season of uncertainty D.C. fans just aren't accustomed to.

I wrote a piece on the subject for ESPN.com this weekend, and while the piece might ruffle some feathers in D.C., it was meant more as an open question than an indictment of the club. Is D.C. United really still a powerful club in MLS, or is it a team in transition and in jeopardy of falling into mediocrity?

It's tough to criticize D.C. too much considering even the team's fairly recent success, with two Supporter's Shields and a U.S. Open Cup title in the past four years. That haul would have fans of many MLS teams gushing, but the playoff failures and inconsistent play over the years has taken some of the tarnish off a club once considered a team to be feared.

D.C. United showed some flashes last year, and the truth is the team has almost always found a way to play attractive attacking soccer, even if defensive weaknesses and a recent poor track record of effective long-term signings have softened the team. With Luciano Emilio likely departing, Ben Olsen retiring and Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez both getting up there in age, it is anyone's guess just what kind of team D.C. United's new head coach will inherit when he is finally hired.

It certainly isn't fair to measure D.C. United by the impossible standard the club set a decade ago, but even by today's MLS standards, D.C. United has fallen a few notches from league power and there's no guarantee the club will be a power again in the immediate future.

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Major League Soccer's blog, MLS Insider, revealed last week that Akron forward Teal Bunburyhad signed with MLS as a Generation adidas player. It isn't exactly a shock considering Bunbury was one of the top five players targeted by MLS to sign such deals. While he failed to score in the College Cup, Bunbury still has the tools as a forward to make him a safe bet to be taken in the Top Three picks in next months MLS Draft.

Bunbury is set to become the first son of an MLS player to play in MLS, which should make us all field just a bit old, but that connection could also impact where Bunbury goes in the draft. Bunbury's father, Alex, was teammates with Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes and Toronto FC Director of Soccer Mo Johnston. He also played on the Canadian national team with San Jose head coach Frank Yallop. With each of those three teams needing forward help, don't be shocked to see one of them trading up to grab the talented striker. That is assuming Philadelphia doesn't stand pat and grab him with the No. 1 overall pick.

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DaMarcus Beasley's recent hot streak has U.S. fans excited about the possibility that Beasley could be returning to his best form just in time for the 2010 World Cup. We're still six months out, but the signs are promising to say the least.

With two years having passed since he had knee surgery, Beasley looks to be healthy and confident for the first time since tearing a knee ligament in Champions League play. As it stands right now, I can't imagine Beasley not making the U.S. World Cup team, and can definitely see him starting if he keeps up the playing time and confident form.

Where might Beasley play? He's looked good on the right wing for Rangers, and could be the player who allows Clint Dempsey to move to the forward position. He could also push Jozy Altidore out of the starting lineup if Bob Bradley ever decides to tinker with a potential forward line of Dempsey and Landon Donovan. it's still way too early to seriously consider what Bradley might do come this summer, but the fact that Beasley's return to form is allowing for such speculation is an encouraging sign for American fans.

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A round of applause has to go out to FC Barcelona for winning its sixth, yes, SIXTH trophy of the year. UEFA Champions League, La Liga, Copa Del Rey, European Supercup, Spanish SuperCup and the Club World Cup have all been added to the trophy case. When you consider that Barcelona stalwarts Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyolalso won the 2008 European Championships with Spain, it makes their run over the course of the last year and a have truly mind-boggling. It should also be noted that the only team to eliminate Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol from a tournament since Euro 2008 is the U.S. national team, which did so by upsetting Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals.

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Lastly, as you know, the 2010 MLS Combine will be taking place next month in Florida as the most of the best draft eligible players will play in an effort to impress MLS coaches ahead of the MLS Draft. One of those prospects is a bit of a celebrity in his own right. That player is Conor Chinn of the University of San Francisco.

What? The name doesn't ring a bell? Well, this commercial should help your memory:

Yes, as far as we can tell, the same Conor who we all remember for being "Nationally Ranked" is now going to be playing with the nation's best players and trying to realize his dreams of being a pro player. No word on whether the kid who nearly gets run over in the commercial also earned an invite.

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What do you think of these topics? Are you starting to wonder if D.C. United will ever be a league power again? Hoping your team drafts Bunbury? Did you buy a Star Kick?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in MLS Draft 2010, MLS- D.C. United, U.S. Men's National Team. Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Monday Kickoff: On D.C. United, Bunbury and more

  1. Beckster says:

    Ives,

    Thought you did a very objective piece on DC. I enjoyed it and I thought Olsen’s quotes were on target. Will be interesting to see what role he plays.

    What do you think of this mornings reports that Holden is going to sign with Blackburn?

  2. EdTheRed says:

    Cristian Castillo should help things out in DC next season: some left-sided attacking menace has been sorely lacking in recent years.

    And come on, DC fans who go back more than a few years are well accustomed to offseason uncertainty, even though most of us try to forget that 2000-2003 never happened.

  3. jig says:

    i for one am not particularly worried about DC. with the parity in this league, there’s no reason they can’t be as good as any one else. and im not a dc fan.

  4. Michael F. - SBI Mafia Original says:

    I’m glad Beaz is getting time and believe the more US players in form the better for us heading to S. Africa. But I think it’s way too early to say he’s a lock for the WC roster, Ives. He’s played against mediocre talent. A goal and an assist in a game that is a 6-0 drubbing doesn’t really show where he is at. I love the experience he brings us and do hope he continues his current form. I’m just not ready to jump on the bandwagon until I see more production against higher quality teams. Fair?

    (SBI-Who said he’s a lock? If he keeps playing with the form and confidence he’s shown lately he will be there.Not sure how anyone can argue that, particularly given the dearth of quality wing options.)

  5. Korey Sutton says:

    Wow, I really wish I had bought a Star Kick now. All of my dreams could have been realized.

  6. frank from sf says:

    well as a ‘quakes supporter i hope we don’t draft bunbury. don’t think he’s going to be all that great. i rather we get tchani or corben bone better. but we’ve all seen (in quakeland that is) yallop and doyle already make some horrible decisions, so this wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they take a chance on him. we’ll see soon enough i guess.

  7. camilo says:

    i knew i shud have bought a star kick

  8. Eric_the_King says:

    Outstanding Ives. I wonder how many takes they had to go through for Star Kick to really hone in on that believable “holy —-, i almost got ran over” feeling.

    Who here on SBI has had that rush of blood to the head when they were younger? Count me in.

  9. Luis says:

    I don’t think dc united will go anywhere, as a matter of fact, I believe they are are one of the important teams that make up the league. We have too keep in mind that this past year, it came down to the last game of the season to decide if they were going to the play offs or not, it’s not like they were a lost case like San Jose. Also, even if dc united has missed the play offs for two years straight, they still attract more audiance then most teams . Not only that, they also have young up coming prospects such as pontius, wallece, szetela and jakovic, plus the addition if a new coach and midfielder castillo, I think they are fine.

  10. An overly kind article. It lets the front office off very easily. Soehn needed to go, but the roster the front office handed him the last two years were jokes — full of overpaid, unfit, lazy, self-centered underachievers. Has the front office learned anything? I think not. The latest signing is another undersized Central American, more than likely a defensive void — in a position where DCU already features its most promising young player — Rodney Wallace. It’s no wonder that the team is struggling to attract a new coach.

  11. M says:

    LOL..that kid almost ran in front of a moving car

  12. patrick says:

    beasley wished Edu good luck on twitter, apparently he’s playing today in their game

  13. Colin says:

    It should also be noted that the only team to eliminate Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol from a tournament since Euro 2008 is the U.S. national team, which did so by upsetting Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals.

    Not true. Iniesta was injured and missed the Confederations Cup.

  14. b-hags says:

    Ives, is Teal Bunbury a lock to play for Canada? As a fellow Minnesota boy I’d love him suiting up for the stars and stripes!

  15. Spectra says:

    I am excited about Beasley stepping it up but I am ecstatic about Dempsey. The past few games I’ve seen him in he is all over the place making dangerous passes and tracking way back to help defensively (well way more for him)

  16. Stryker says:

    Maybe DC United should buy some Star Kicks….

  17. plug 713 says:

    Excellent piece about DC on ESPNSoccernet. I have posted on this blog before that the biggest problem DC United have is in the front office. You pointed out the failure to perform that has been common to virtually all of their South American signings. You failed to cite their equally failed evaluation of talent already on the team. Troy Perkins was an unappreciated keeper who had to support himself with a second job at Dick’s Sporting Goods for his first two years with the team. Now he is a successful keeper in Europe and is on the fringes of the USMNT. Bobby Boswell and Brian Carroll were viewed as not needed and traded to teams where they are both essential components of championship sides (Houston and Columbus). Christion Gomez was sent to Siberia (Denver)and re-acquired a year later when it became painfully obvious that his replacement wasn’t up to scratch. Last season was the first draft in several in which DC made any effort to position themselves to acquire domestic talent. Most years, they seem to treat the draft as if it were redundant. While DC did win the MLS Cup in 2004, they were far from an impressive club that season. As late as June of that year, they were struggling and they finished the regular season with a record that was something like 11-11-10. They got hot during the play-offs and rode that streak to a title. They simpling haven’t been a convincing side, much less solid, for many years. They continue to field teams that have, in my view, glaring weaknesses in defense. And while offense fills the stands, defense fills the trophy case. The front office seems oblivious to these issues and talks about DC United as if they were one of the great sides in North America. The facts, in my opinion, do not support this point view and recent developments in their failed effort to find a quality replacement for Tom Soehn simply highlight the deep-seated problems that continue to afflict the team.

  18. ko'd says:

    Maybe Freddy Adu needs a Star Kick. Anyone want to chip in for a Christmas present for Freddy?

    I am so sorry. I could not help myself.

  19. Mike says:

    DC is also a team which has not stood in the way of players moving on. Troy Perkins wanted to go overseas, and we let him go. Otherwise, we would not still be having issues in goal. Bryan Arguez could have turned in to a rock star in midfield for all we know, but he wanted to move on, so we let him. Freddy Adu didn’t understand tough coaching and wanted to move on, eventually to Europe, so we let him go. Andrew Jacobson spent a year in France after we drafted him. I know New England has rebuffed attempts of European teams to purchase Twellman and Joseph. Imagine what kind of team they would be if someone such as them, or say, Matt Reis, would have gone overseas. Houston is the exception to this since they have managed to stay relevent without losing too many people. They were even able to aptly replace DeRosario with Holden and Eddie Robinson with Geoff Cameron and Boswell.

    Three things I feel have undeniably hurt our team (I am a DC fan if you couldn’t tell). Poor drafts. We have not been able to utilize the draft in order to continually add young talent to our team. Also, we have not stood in the way of players transferring out. In turn, this has hurt squad depth. This depth issue has taken an even bigger toll due to the third reason, the crazy fixture congestion. The punishment for being successful in MLS with no additional assistance or exceptions to help teams out which represent our league in international competitions.

  20. Justin O says:

    When the list of invitees was posted earlier I remember almost posting a sarcastic comment about the two “Conors” listed, asking which one was “natonally ranked”. I had no idea!

  21. Ryan says:

    You know, there’s a decent bit of discussion out there about whether, even though you can “return” after 1 year, if tearing your ACL is really a two year injury for quick motion sports like basketball, football and soccer.

    While I don’t necessarily think it’s true or false, Beasley is sure playing like it may be the case.

  22. Charles says:

    It is great that we have a REAL league over here.

    One where more than two or three teams have a chance of winning every year.

    Back to back winning of the MLS Cup actually means something.

    Hopefully Garber stays in power for a very long time so they can keep that in place.

    IF DC doesn’t win because the league is competitive, I am ok with that ;-)

  23. Jordan Drew says:

    The Sun claims that Blackburn have made an offer to free agent U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden.

    Have you heard anything about this Ives?

  24. Josh D says:

    DC Fan – I think what has hurt our team is we were used to winning everything in the 90s. 2000 rolled around and we started falling off our comfort perch. Having been so successful before, instead of becoming a dynamic team like we used to, we instead relied on safe drafts/trades that hurt us long term and still does (see Gomez coming back and Moreno still here).

    However, with a new coach and some nice draft picks from last year and hopefully some good trades this season, we will be back. Wallace and Pontius have had a major impact both on the team and in the minds of people here where they now can say “wow youths can play!” Couple that with Szelta who, if we can get him fit, will have a huge part to play. As a huge Benny fan, I’d like to see Danny get the #14 and lead us through the middle/wings like a young Olsen.

    For the past few seasons we haven’t been a great side due to depth. Our starting XI can compete with any, only problem is we rarely had it. We were in too many tournaments and spread ourselves too thin causing injuries which cause a dip in form.

    We still managed to get to a final and compete well in everything we were in. Getting Castillo shows the backroom are going after younger, more exciting prospects. He even plays in a position we’ve needed for years!!

    If anything Ives, the DC fans are really looking forward to this season if things can keep up. There are far, far worse teams to keep an eye out for.

  25. John says:

    Do you think the dramatic slip on the curb was scripted, or lucky happenstance?

  26. El Michael says:

    Ives

    I hope BB doesn’t tinker with the idea of moving Landon to forward. Landon is able to impact the game so much more from the Mid field. I for one am not sold on Jozy being a starting forward just yet, Had Davies not gotten hurt I don’t think Jozy would have been considered a starter.

    As it stands now I could see BB using a 4-5-1 with dempsey upfront and Landon as an attacking mid.

  27. El Michael says:

    I thought Iniesta was one of the Spanairds who had nothing but praise for landon after the Confed. Cup

  28. r.benjamin says:

    Where has Dempsey been lining up and/or drifting from for Fulham lately? Right mid or up top?

  29. Jose S. says:

    Belenenses fired their manager today.

    Wonder how this will affect Freddy Adu, who was looking to be loaned out to a different team during the January window.

  30. UK-DCDave says:

    Ives, read your ESPN piece – good job. I have to agree with your summation. DCU has looked scrappy and disorganized this past two seasons. They are not playing attractive football. Coach Soehn did not have the coaching skill set to cobble together the players that the FO supplied him. Arena has this skill, and I think that they would have faired better with a better coach, but still nowhere near the 90′s teams. Decisions need to be made on player personnel, the older players, Gomez, Moreno et. al. need to move on. The younger players need guidance, and in some instances coaching in basic skills. It is disconcerting that a new coach has not been contracted, the draft and off-season signings is very close. I am one person that see’s nothing wrong with bringing in a foreign coach, maybe Mexican ( we are tied to this regions style) or European ( US Football is currently closer in style to Europe than Latin America)
    All in all, I am not looking for a return to the glory days for the next few seasons, I have learned to lower my expectations for DCU, and avoid disappointment and frustration.

    Big Sam has a financial problem with Blackburn, he needs to sell to buy. Holden would be a an inexpensive way for him to bolster his squad. Big Sam has a way of coaching his teams to play above there individual skills. If Holden gets playing time he can only benefit from the experience.

    Great news on Edu, the better of the 2 Rangers US players. I would be happier seeing him in the WC squad than Beasley. We need the speed of a Beasley, but we need consistency more.

    Vomos United!!!

  31. whatagame says:

    Ives,

    Did Soehn win two Supporters Shields in three years? I don’t recall that. I think he won the Supporter’s Shield the first year, the Open Cup his second year and nothing his third year.

    While I also enjoy criticizing the Front Office of DCU, I think they didn’t so much intend to blow up the team after Soehn won the Supporter’s Shield as build a team that could win MLS CUP and do well in CONCACAF. They pinned a lot of that on acquiring Veron knowing that Gomez was pretty much done even though he was asking for DP level money and two guaranteed years. When Veron back-pedaled, they were left scrambling for a replacement for Gomez which turned out to be the very talented but injury prone and under-motivated Gallardo. The were also looking to shore up a defense that had become suspect with Boswell having a lackluster year. Fans were excited at the time….little did we know what a royal cluster-…… that would turn out to be. We shold have been more patient with Boswell and not panicked when we couldn’t get Veron.

    Hopefully, the FO has learned some lessons

  32. DC Josh says:

    I’m not worried about my black and red. We have a few positions where we lack impact, up top and central defense. We play best when there is chemistry and team work. We haven’t had that the last two years. Each week we’ve had a completely different lineup. I can’t wait to have a season without having to travel to El guadalupedelosmios every other week to play in front of 20k hostile fans.

    I don’t want to try and win the cup every year when you need to slow down and build the team from the ground up. For right now, the FO needs to stray away from DP’s and work on selecting a team where each individual is only as good as the unit.

    And there is nothing better than cheap soccer infomercials, thank you Clint Dempsey and Taylor Twellman.

  33. Beckster says:

    amen…not to mention Kovelenko, Prideaux and Alecko – everywhere I looked this season there were ex-DC United players playing key roles on very successful teams.

  34. timmyg says:

    Ives — no mention of the stadium in the piece on United? Sorta an elephant in the room, no?

    (SBI-Obviously the stadium issues are a problem for D.C. but I tried to focus on the on-field issues and inconsistency and lack of titles in recent years. Going into the stadium stuff would have spread the subject out a bit too much for my taste.)

  35. Å vejk says:

    From Conor Chinn’s USF bio:

    “Ranked No. 8 among national Division I leaders in goals per game”

    The prophecy came true!

  36. Paul says:

    I think keeping a front office accountable is always healthy, however I tend to disagree with your opinion Ian and offer another angle.

    I’m not a DCU fan so to speak, but I believe that Kasper, Payne and Co. actually do their homework, at least more than most MLS franchises, and have done relatively well in the past with the cap and developing a team (through player acquisitions & development). They’ve brought in some very good talent from South/Latin America that has translated well in the league (Christian Gomez, Luciano Emilia, Moreno, etc.). Of course they also had a couple players in the last 2 years that really burned them and didn’t translate, none more than Marcelo Gallardo. I’m guessing they truly thought they had a star to build a team around, but as we all saw the move seemed to handcuff them and those effects still resonated in 2009. Even so, I think they are one or two players away from a contender.

  37. fischy says:

    Honestly, I don’t know whose feathers Ives thinks he might be ruffling. United didn’t even make the MLS playoffs the last two years. What teams don’t make the playoffs? The Red Bulls, Wizards, Rapids, Dallas, expansion franchises, and now DC United. And, they looked awful in much of their Champions Legue games. They won a lot of games in the Open Cup the last 2 years? Big deal. Few of the wins were actually against MLS sides.

    To say they’re struggling is really just saying the most obvious. Not only have they struggled, the biggest stars are now retiring or about to, or moving on because DCU really needs more production than the can give now. More interesting would be to write about whether DCU can recapture their old style and success, or whether they need to do something different.

  38. Berlin says:

    I feel so bad for DCU. It reminds me of how bad I felt when Leeds went down and Newcastle was relegated. Sorry, now that I think about it, what I meant to say was HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  39. MVK says:

    with that and the “soccer wave” you well on your way to world footballer of the year

  40. Eric_the_King says:

    For the safety of that poor child, I hope it was scripted. But my gut tells me that was pure cinematic instinct from the little guy.

  41. south says:

    Every game I’ve watched he’s been at Forward, playing the whole 90.

    The purchase of Damien Duff and an injury to Andy Johnson seemed to have been kind to deuce, he’s 5 goals on the season too, with an assist last weekend.

  42. madmax says:

    Freddy dressed for another game, progress.

  43. DC Josh says:

    Maybe that’s a sign of good scouting?

  44. Haig says:

    “DC is also a team which has not stood in the way of players moving on.”

    Mike, it should be pointed out that teams who try to cling to players rather than letting them move overseas when a transfer offer comes in are the exception, not the rule. DC is hardly unique in this regard.

  45. fischy says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with Plug. I wonder if you really know much about DC United, other than the names of players.

    Yes, Troy Perkins turned into a fine goalie, and was still being compensated as a the trialist he once was. The reality is that Perkins got far more to go abroad than any MLS team could afford to pay for a goalie. More than 4x what any other MLS goalie was making.

    Boswell partied and blogged his way out of town. The freshman Boswell was a great find. The sophomore Boswell stunk. He was fatigued from staying up partying and blogging, even on the night before games. He got beat repeatedly by balls over the top. When they intiall traded him, it was to bring in Joe Cannon — waht would have been a great trade — but MLS vetoed that part of the trade, and DC was forced to settle for Zack Wells.

    Brian Carroll was probably an oversight, but he was coming off a bad year — partly due to the formation that DCU had used that year. DC was going to lose somebody in the expansion draft. Perhaps they blew it by exposing Carroll, but most people doing their fantasy protection lists agreed with the choice.

    Marcelo Gallardo did not succeed, but even a big Gome fn like mself would admit in a heartbeat that he’s a more gifted player than Gomez. The reality is that he was too skilled for the team — his deft passing was wasted because his teammates weren’t skilled enough to control and make something of his passes.

    I predicted this might happen, and I take no joy in having been proved right (Most MLS players do well enough with ground passes — and Gomez was brilliant at setting his teammates up that way — but they lack the trapping skills to handle balls in the air). If the rest of the team didn’t have wooden first touches, Gallardo would have been pretty amazing. As it was, he was the most fouled player in MLS — by a long shot, and all those cheap shots left him repeatedly injured and unenamored with the idea of returning to MLS.

    You attack the front office’s accomplishment in winning MLS Cup in ’04, because the team didn’t have the greatest regular season. Well, what then do we say about the way, DCU won back-to-back Supporters’ Shields in ’06 and ’07??!!?? They were the best team in the league during those years, by your own standard.

  46. Goblin says:

    C’mon…steal players from Europe if you will. We’re dyin’ up here and if Teal is as good as his dad, Canada will be happy to have him.

  47. Myles says:

    He has said it would be a dream to play for Toronto. He grew up in Hamilton and his Dad is the leading all-time Canadian scorer. He’s got a lot to live up to!

  48. MiamiAl says:

    Does anyone honestly believe that DC United will not win the MLS Cup again? I can honestly say that I think it will never happen for the Red Bulls…

    (SBI-Here’s a question Al. Who was talking about the Red Bulls? Also, regarding your other comment that was removed, you might want to watch what you write.)