As a half-season planholder for DC United I hadn’t made it to a game in a while prior to their US Open Cup clash with Columbus on Wednesday night. Of course, I had seen lots of DCU play on television and should not have been at all surprised by the loss that was about to transpire in meltdown fashion on the humid pitch of RFK Stadium. But seeing it in person nonetheless served to only deepen the frustration and embarrassment that I feel regarding my favorite soccer team these days. And I’m apparently not the only one.
The club is on a pace to score the fewest goals ever in MLS. They have been shut out in roughly 2/3 of their league matches while the defense has leaked goals at crucial times throughout the season. Simply put the results on the field are an absolute disaster and they make a mockery of what the club and we the fans point to, i.e., our “storied” history.
Let me say though, I don’t blame the players, at least not most of them anyway. They are playing their hearts out this season, especially since Ben Olsen took over as the head coach. Olsen’s coaching his heart out, too, showing all the passion that made him one of United’s greats as a player. But the current players are simply overmatched, not good enough individually or collectively to match up with the best in this league.
The blame really belongs with the front office, which has overseen this decline and done absolutely nothing to stop it. They have brought in overpriced foreign players who have failed to perform. They have traded away draft picks in return for underperforming, past-their-prime retreads. And when they have “aimed high” they have not only failed to get their man, worse they’ve had no Plan B in place when Plan A failed. It was this way several years ago when they tried to get Juan Sebastien Veron, and it was again this way when they couldn’t bring Caleb Porter aboard as new manager in the past offseason. The hiring of Curt Onalfo was a shotgun wedding between a failing club that desperately needed a manager, and a failing manager who needed a job.
Add in the hopeless stadium situation and it is clear this organization has lost its way. And because of that the club is now radioactive to anyone with the talent or vision to turn things around. Until some heads roll, things will not change.
The owner, Will Chang, is a businessman and should understand well that a failing business enterprise either needs new leadership or it needs to be shut down. DC United is now such a dysfunctional organization that his attention is desperately needed. GM Dave Kasper needs to be summarily fired. And Kevin Payne, if not fired (he does have an ownership stake so it may not even be possible to fire him), needs to be removed from the player personnel side of the club’s operations completely. Kasper and Payne right now are a roadblock to any future progress. Kasper is simply incompetent. Payne meanwhile is trapped inside his memories of past glory and delusional about the results such glory should now engender. Until both Kasper and Payne are pushed out, nothing will change. Nothing. Except maybe the mailing address (Baltimore, anyone?).
That’s where things stand and it’s an ugly place to be.
After the opening match of the season I titled my post here “Doom and Gloom United?” The only thing that changed since then is that now I can safely remove the “?” from that title.