Revisiting Our 2012 New Years' Resolutions For D.C. United

Ned Dishman

In January 2012, we made five resolutions for D.C. United, including some goals for both on and off the field. Which resolutions did they keep? Where did the team come up short?

It's become an annual tradition here at Black And Red United. Every January we make five New Years' Resolutions for D.C. United. And every December we revisit those Resolutions to see what the team has accomplished. To see how the team did in previous years, check out our Resolutions from 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Our Resolutions for 2012 were in some ways ambitious, and in other ways clairvoyant. Although we didn't resolve for United to return to the playoffs (we should have, they did), we made other Resolutions that were just as important. Or perhaps even more important.

So how did the team do? Let's take a look.

1. Make some progress on the stadium.

This isn't just the top priority anymore. Its the only true priority, because its the only goal that the future of the organization depends on. Its a priority that upper management at United should be working to accomplish every single day.

[...] The team must resolve to ramp up its efforts in every way imaginable. Network with potential partners. Meet with developers. Hire a consultant. Whatever. Its possible and perhaps even probable that all these things are currently happening behind the scenes. And that's fine. If United is making legitimate progress but isn't disclosing it to the media at this time, I'm totally cool with that. Tell us when you've finalized a deal and we'll all pump our fists in delight.

We could forgive the team for its lack of progress previous to 2011 because the market was crap. Its not anymore. New construction is happening all over the D.C. area right now as we speak. Cranes all over town have been erected for hundreds of projects. Its a shame that a United stadium isn't one of them. It should be. Plans, financing, bidding, and construction all take time. There's no reason to think that we can't at least see the first steps in the process happening by the end of 2012.

Clearly lots of things are happening behind the scenes, as the team has been meeting with various D.C. politicians to advance the prospect of a new stadium. And in many ways, "the future of the organization" is no longer in doubt, as the future has been solidified by the additions of Erick Thohir and Jason Levien to the ownership group. But can we honestly say that progress has been made on the erection of a stadium for United? No, not really. The team is close. They have to be close by now. It's entirely possible and maybe even probably that a stadium deal will be completed within the next six months, but as of 12/31/12, no truly positive announcements have been made. United did not accomplish this Resolution.

2. Add international players who can contribute.

United had only one international player who played significant minutes in 2011 - Dejan Jakovic. I think a reasonable expectation for 2012 would be three. And if one of those three is Branko Boskovic, that indeed counts. [...] Holes remain at striker, left back, and wide midfield depth. United can fill one of those three in the 2012 MLS Draft, but the other two will probably need to come from abroad. And United will need to have more luck from its foreign searches than in the previous three years if it hopes to return to the playoffs.

Ben Olsen and Dave Kasper accomplished this goal, absolutely. Jakovic and Boskovic both were important members of the team once again, and the team also got some significant contributions from Lionard Pajoy, Hamdi Salihi, Emiliano Dudar, and Lewis Neal along the way. Setting our goal going into this season at three international players was fairly modest. The team had six, and if you count green card-holders Maicon Santos and Marcelo Saragosa, we had even more. Nice job.

3. Add homegrown players who can contribute.

United had three homegrown players as vital members of the team in 2011. I want a fourth in 2012. Similar to our international conundrum, that guy might already be on the roster. With Perry Kitchen likely to miss several matches this summer on Olympic duty, and without a fourth center back under contract, Conor Shanosky has the opportunity in front of him to make the big impression that we've been waiting for him to make. But if Shanosky isn't up to the task, perhaps Collin Martin or Jalen Robinson will be. Both United Academy products were named to Tab Ramos' U-20 camp this week, and have bright futures ahead of them.

2012 was a great year for United in almost every aspect on-the-field. But we shouldn't overlook the fact that United took a step back in this area. The team didn't sign any new homegrown players this year, and that's okay if none of the Academy products were ready. If guys like Martin, Robinson, Patrick Foss, Suliaman Dainkeh, and Dami Adetola weren't going to make the gameday roster for United at any point this season, then it's definitely better off for them to stay in school anyway. And even though former homegrown signings Bill Hamid and Andy Najar stepped up huge for United in 2012, the team did not accomplish this resolution when we look at the fact that Ethan White and Shanosky didn't play a single minute this season. This is something important to keep our eyes on heading into 2013.

4. Improve the depth.

Last year we talked about D.C. needing to add depth to cope with the potential for injuries. They did. But when those injuries happened - Jakovic and Chris Pontius each missed over a month at the end of the season - the team fell apart. The depth wasn't good enough.

We've discussed the Stephen King standard before, as it related to our Approval Ratings. But how about this for a new version of the Stephen King standard: King shouldn't be our first midfielder off the bench. He shouldn't be playing 20 games for us next season..

Check! D.C.'s depth was a huge storyline in 2012. Unlike in 2011, when a key player went down, the team thrived. The long undefeated streak to close out the year and the deep run in the playoffs would not have happened without guys like Saragosa, Neal, Chris Korb, Joe Willis, and Robbie Russell serving as depth. And considering that he started only one match this season and didn't make a single appearance since May, the King Standard has been erased from our vocabulary. Neal is the new Standard. And even that's a standard that can be improved upon in 2013.

5. Spend some money.

There’s this sinking feeling that I haven’t been able to get rid of that suggests that the ongoing disaster of a stadium situation is detrimentally affecting every aspect of this club. [...] The evidence of budget constraints is mounting. Only one international signing last year. No rookie free agents in training camp last year. No selections in either Re-Entry draft last month. The team probably couldn’t buy Charlie Davies’ contract if they wanted to (they didn’t).

As the contracts of Joseph Ngwenya, Santino Quaranta, Clyde Simms, and Marc Burch disappear from the books (as well as whatever portion of Troy Perkins’ contract United was still hooked for), D.C. has plenty of room under the salary cap for some new additions. [...] The stadium crisis shouldn’t affect the technical side of the team. Please prove to us that it doesn’t.

Hmm... I'm going to call this grade Incomplete. The team did in fact spend money: Salihi wasn't cheap, nor was the contract extension for Dwayne De Rosario. Expanding the scouting department was a nice touch as well. And the budget constraints mentioned here are no longer as apparent. With Thohir's deep pockets, we don't need to be worried as much anymore about the lack of funds to pay for any particular player that we really want to pay for, nor are we concerned that the lack of stadium progress is affecting other parts of the team.

New concerns have arisen now instead. These are concerns that we could not have anticipated back in January. Now our concern is that the front office at United won't be properly staffed with the kinds of soccer professionals that we've all gotten used to interacting with over the years. From the top on down, many individuals in the front office lost their jobs late in 2012, and the team has not yet spent the money to replace them, or given us any assurances that they will be replaced by other equally-qualified individuals.

But from an on-field perspective, D.C. United did spend its money wisely in 2012. And I guess that's what's most important here, isn't it.

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