D.C. United is on the verge of completing what has to be considered one of the most successful three-win seasons in the history of professional sports. Not only did the team capture its MLS record 13th trophy by winning the U.S. Open Cup, but United also avoided its own extinction by striking a deal with the District Of Columbia to remain in the nation's capital, with a new stadium to be constructed in the near future.
For having possibly the worst regular season results in league history, this was actually a pretty darn good year for D.C. United.
But that doesn't make the offseason any easier. United has plenty of work to do. Because despite the success that United enjoyed outside of league play, the 2013-14 offseason will unquestionably contain a good deal of rebuilding.
Here's the question though: Who should be in charge of the rebuilding effort?
There's a whole world of options out there. That's one of the good things about soccer - you're not limited to individuals living only in your continent, or in your home country, or in your local region. You're certainly not limited to hiring only people within your own building. And yet that's what United seems poised to do.
Who should be in charge of the rebuilding effort? Should it be the same guy who got us into this mess to start with? Or should it be someone else?
I'm more inclined to vote for the second option, but unfortunately I don't get a vote. The only votes that matter are those of Jason Levien, Erick Thohir, and Will Chang, and their votes seem to be cast on the side of retaining Dave Kasper as D.C. United's general manager.
There's no real need to review the list of failed international signings made under Kasper's watch. It might exceed the word limit I'd intended for this column. Instead, let's just review the list of successful international signings made while Kasper has officially held the GM title: Dejan Jakovic. And, uh, maybe Branko Boskovic? But that's it.
I'm pretty sure that every other team in MLS could give you a list of more than two international signings that have at least lived up to expectations in the last five years. And many of those have actually replaced their GM at least once during that timeframe. Not United though.
I also might wonder what exactly we're paying Kurt Morsink for. The international acquisitions that we might give Morsink some credit for this season are Rafael and Marcos Sanchez, both massive disappointments. He gets no credit, in my opinion, for Conor Doyle and Jared Jeffrey, two promising prospects that landed in our laps through other MLS acquisition means. At what point will Morsink start pulling his weight and finding this team some contributors?
Domestically, Kasper's record is obviously a bit better, but certainly far from perfect. It has to be said that Kasper, along with the rest of the technical staff and Kevin Payne at times, has done well in the MLS Draft. Chris Pontius, Rodney Wallace, Perry Kitchen, and Nick DeLeon are all above-average MLS players, while Kasper has also managed to hit on some late-round picks with guys like Chris Korb and Joe Willis.
Some of Kasper's other domestic acquisitions have been baffling at times though. Trades for Casey Townsend, Denis Iapichino, Mike Chabala, and Long Tan have all blown up in Kasper's face within months of their execution, and that's just since the middle of last season.
United will receive plenty of spoils from the league this offseason. If we are indeed to embark on a rebuilding endeavor, we're fortunate enough to have plenty of resources. United will get the maximum possible allocation money this offseason due to finishing with the worst record in the league and also qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League at the same time. United will also get the first pick in the SuperDraft and both rounds of the Re-Entry Draft, as well as the first dibs in the allocation order and the best odds in any subsequent lotteries for league signings.
With Dave Kasper at the helm, we'll undoubtedly wind up with a productive player from the college ranks thanks to having the first draft pick, but what else? Its entirely likely that Kasper will use the rest of his newfound resources on adding a few more Castillos and Habarugiras.
In order to compete for a playoff spot next season, this D.C. team needs to turn over roughly 50% of the roster. With this staff's continued trust in guys like James Riley and Sainey Nyassi, I have very little faith that they'll actually follow through. It won't be easy or fun, but some tough devisions need to be made. Some folks will wind up with some hurt pride. But it's what's necessary for this team to move forward.
In the blink of an eye Conor Shanosky will be 30 years old and still the fourth center back on the roster and still getting passed over for playing time in favor of Perry Kitchen out-of-position.
If Kasper is able to swallow his pride and tear down the roster that he personally built and take a different approach to starting over, United might be in decent shape. But if we get more of the same out of Kasper, then we should probably expect more of the same results on the field for the next few years too.