A new year has begun, and we fans of D.C. United couldn't be happier about that. After three years of referring to 2010 as The Year Not To Be Named, that year now shares its title with 2013.
United has already started making significant changes to what was one of the worst teams in MLS history, and those changes will continue here over the next few months of the new year.
If you're anything like me, then you've probably already broken at least one of your new year's resolutions for 2014, but that doesn't stop you from making them every year anyway. Making new year's resolutions has become a tradition here at Black And Red United, but these aren't resolutions for ourselves. They're resolutions for D.C. United.
We already reviewed our 2013 resolutions for United, and if you're really looking to kill some time, you can also reflect upon our resolution results from 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. Without further ado, here's what we're looking for D.C. United to accomplish in 2014.
1. Continue the stadium progress
This fanbase has been waiting for a new soccer stadium to be constructed for roughly 17 years now. We can afford to be patient. We understand that the proposed land swap that will put a nice stadium-sized parcel of land on Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington into the hands of the D.C. Government is a complicated ordeal. And we know that the City Council will take an appropriate amount of time to review any deal that involves the spending of taxpayer money. The construction process isn't easy when so many stakeholders are involved, especially when so many of those stakeholders are politicians.
So we're in no rush. We're just happy to continue seeing progress towards the ultimate goal. The progress in 2013 was slow but steady. It would have been great to see new steps taken every week, but that just isn't how the arena of D.C. politics works. Rather we've seen a new step once a quarter or so. That progress must continue in 2014. If by April we're farther along than January, and July farther than April, and so on, we'll take it. By December, the remainder of the path towards stadium construction should be nearly a sure thing.
2. Hold the right people accountable
The folks in charge at D.C. United responded to the worst statistical season in MLS history by firing... the Chief Marketing Officer? It was as if Jason Levien was holding Doug Hicks and his marketing and sales teams responsible for the declining attendance at RFK Stadium, rather than the poor on-field product. The worst team in league history elected to keep both its coach and its general manager to give them another chance. Has that ever happened in any other sports league?
This isn't just about Ben Olsen and Dave Kasper though. Everyone needs to be held accountable for his performance. If guys like Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon, Conor Doyle, and Chris Korb once again put up disappointing numbers in 2014, they should not expect to keep their jobs, or should at least not continue to be automatic starters.
3. Return to the MLS Playoffs
This might sound like a fairly ambitious goal for a team that won only three games last season, but I think it's attainable.
D.C. United has now made the playoffs just once out of the last six years. That's not good. The team's brain trust has been busy already this offseason with the additions of Eddie Johnson, Fabian Espindola, Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin, and Davy Arnaud. With the top spot in the allocation order and the top pick in the MLS Draft, United's roster has improved significantly. There's enough talent here to compete with any team in the Eastern Conference. There's no excuse for Olsen's team to miss the playoffs again this year.
And if they do, see no. 2 above.
4. Find some international talent
This has long been a major problem for D.C. United. The last international acquisition that actually lived up to his expectations was Dejan Jakovic, and that was way back in 2009, meaning that United has now gone four full seasons without having a major contributor arriving from a foreign league. That absolutely has to change.
Kasper has done a fine job of bolstering the roster so far this offseason, with upgrades coming to each line of the starting XI. It would be nice to see some of those upgrades coming from somewhere other than MLS though.
So here's another modest goal for United: sign at least three international players during 2014, and have at least one of them pan out. As modest as that goal sounds, it's amazing that the club has fallen short of that goal so many times in the past. If they want to achieve goals 3 and 5, they better achieve this one too.
5. Compete seriously in the CONCACAF Champions' League
The league has given United the resources necessary to compete through additional allocation funds intended to help bolster the roster depth of teams that have qualified for the CCL. United must use those resources adequately to not only improve the starting lineup, but also to ensure that we have enough starter-quality players to field competitive lineups in both competitions.
Part of this team's tradition is to take games in auxiliary competitions just as seriously as MLS league games. This isn't true for every team in the league, but whether its an MLS game, a U.S. Open Cup game, or a CCL game, I want United to go for the win.
Let's not take our eyes off of our history. Winning championships is part of this team's tradition. United was the first to win MLS Cup, the first to win an international tournament, the first to have four stars above its badge, and still the team with the most total trophies all-time in the league.
How sweet would it be if United is also the first MLS team to win the CCL?