Every year in January, I write a list of resolutions for the D.C. United organization. Its a list of five priorities that I'd like to see the team accomplish. Just like most personal resolutions, these are typically met with low-to-moderate success.
Below is our list of resolutions, as written on Jan. 5, 2010, and a current reaction to each.
1. Identify your starting lineup and stick with it. United players young and old complained that it was hard to get in rhythm when you never knew if you were starting or not. It may be nice to have a couple versatile utility players, but when you’re asking a rookie to go from a forward one week to a holding midfielder the next, you’ve got an issue. The team’s inability to establish a consistent starting lineup last season was certainly due in part to injuries and the additional international matches. So with a solid core group of players, and with fewer matches on the calendar now, this should be an easy revision for 2010.
Ha! And there we were thinking that injuries this year wouldn’t be as bad as they were last year! For the most part, maintaining a consistent starting lineup was limited this year only due to injuries. The coaches weren’t constantly tinkering like Tom Soehn did in 2009. Players were benched when they sucked and they were given more minutes when they were showing well. In general, there weren’t too many surprises in the starting lineups this year.
2. Get more playing time for the most productive players. My favorite statistic from 2009 was Jaime Moreno’s 0.0073 goals per minute average, which was far higher than any other player on the team, and among the best in the league. A piece of that stat though is that Moreno was only on the field 45.92% of the time. No one is going to argue that Moreno should be asked to play 90 minutes in every match, but if he’s fit, he should be playing.
It’s hard to argue for or against this point since we had so few productive players. D.C. United definitely deserves some credit here though for identifying early on that Andy Najar despite his inexperience was one of the best players on the team, and making him a regular starter accordingly. On the other hand, Pablo Hernandez was in many ways the least productive player on the team, and his starting job was never in doubt. We’ll call this one a push.
3. No more pre-half time substitutions. I can’t think of a more demoralizing thing to say to a player than to tell him that he’s not even worthy of finishing the half. One of the defining images of the Soehn years would be Jaime Moreno standing at the scorer’s table with something like 41:00 on the clock. And it’s an image I’d like to forget.
Yes! Mission accomplished! Meanwhile, with the United game on television up in Vancouver, things would start to get a little crazy around the Tom Soehn household around the 40th minute of every match. Soehn would let his dog outside, he’d send his wife upstairs to change the bedsheets, he’d tell his kids to go to their rooms, he’d send Mark Geiger a text message. And then he’d do the same thing again next week.
4. Bury the 3-5-2. Sound familiar? Maybe that’s because this was one of our resolutions for 2009. And like most of my personal resolutions, it ended by the first week. The problem with a three-man back-line is that it requires three defenders with good speed and a high positional sense. While this formation is nice because it allows you to utilize a central attacking midfielder and two defensive midfielders, United just doesn’t have the right defensive personnel to support it.
The 3-5-2 as a standard formation was finally buried under Curt Onalfo. The team only used some version of a three-man backline when it was playing from behind. Which would imply that D.C. used it approximately 60% of the time, but it was actually much less. There’s a thought brewing now though that this formation might pop up again in the near future. Julius James, Dejan Jakovic, and Jed Zayner might be better suited for a three-man backline than we’ve seen previous years, and we certainly have the depth in central defensive midfield to support it. My concern though would be that this would limit Najar and Santino Quaranta in their ability to get forward, as it would add additional defensive responsibility to our wingers, who are probably the greatest existing strength on the team.
5. Make some progress on the stadium. The fanbase craves a real soccer stadium to watch our team, and we’re all tired of being envious of Toyota Park, Home Depot Center, and Red Bull Arena. We need a place to call home. I don’t have any expectations that construction will start this year, or even that a deal will be in place. All I’m asking for is some enduring piece of good news before the end of 2010.
And here we have the greatest failure of them all. Even if we’d had a terrible season on the field but still made legitimate progress in procuring a soccer specific stadium, this year could have been deemed a success. Management has been notoriously tight-lipped about its stadium intentions, and Ownership is seeking additional investors. Its nice to know that the City of Baltimore is interested in moving the team north, but I’m still inclined to believe that "Tradition" will continue to restrict our CEO from leaving the D.C. Metro area. As noted last week, the most important news related to a D.C. United stadium is that the economy is recovering.
That's it for now. Check back next week for a new list of resolutions for 2011. Feel free to leave your own recommendations for me in the comments.