For years, DC United has relied on creative players such as Jaime Moreno, Marco Etcheverry, and Christian Gomez, to provide the catalyst to the offense. In this regard, they seem to have bucked the trend of most MLS teams, who have never had the one creative player through which their offense runs. And this system worked for many years, bringing DC 4 MLS Cups, 4 Supporter’s Shields, 2 US Open Cups, and 1 CONCACAF Champions League Cup. DC has also had the fortune of being able to plug new players into their system, never really having to rebuild, just replace.
But that era is now over. There isn’t a player who can run the offense through the middle anymore, and I don’t know if there is a player who could fill that role that DC would be able to get. And so, like in baseball, its time to start a youth movement. DC needs to stop filling its roster with older players, trying to extend this run just a little longer. They need to blow it all up and start over.
I’ve been listening to the early episodes of the Winning Ugly Radio Show, and in one of the first two Erik Young said that the real way that MLS will grow is through its academies, not through players from overseas or really even through players from colleges. This is definitely true, and DC needs to follow this course. Don’t try and bring some big name player over during the summer transfer window who only has one or two years left and ruins any cap space United has left. Invest that money in young players, whether signed directly to the senior team or put into the academy. Andy Najar and Bill Hamid, two of United best players this season, are both graduates of the academy.
Players like Luciano Emilio, Jaime Moreno, Carey Talley, and Kurt Morsink shouldn’t be playing. If United is to be successful, they will not be a part of the long term future. I would like to see people like Andy Najar, Barry Rice, Brandon Barklage, and Stephen King getting those minutes, supplementing the young players who are already getting minutes, such as Chris Pontius, Jordan Graye, Rodney Wallace, and Bill Hamid. If Christian Castillo has the possibility to be here longer than his current season-long loan, then keep him out there as well. Its time to find out which of these young players can grow and contribute in the long term to United.
In addition to the academy system, it is also time to rebuild through the draft. This means they have to stop trading away draft picks for players and perhaps seeing if they can get anything for any of their current older players (Troy Perkins). United has to realize that its time to stop being the team that mortgages its future to try and win now. That philosophy, as both the New York Yankees have realized, is not sustainable.
I feel bad for players like Allsopp and Pena, who are still contributors and who came to DC United thinking that they we’re going to be given a chance to win. I think that they, along with Simms, still have a place on this team as the veteran leadership. But United needs to surround them with young players. Not all of them will work out, but we won’t know until we see what they can do.
The front office and the coaching also need a change. The front office believed that United could win this season with this team; that was, obviously, a stunning miscalculation. In order to affect this change in philosophy, the team must part ways with the architect of that philosophy. They also need to bring in a coach who can develop young talent; Curt Onalfo, while by all accounts a great human being, has not proven to be that person.
What I’ve suggested is a fairly massive change. Will it actually happen? Probably not. But if United must lose, I would rather watch players who still have the potential to develop, perhaps winning games by the end of the season, than continuing to watch players who have either maxed out their potential or are in decline.