Each year, we at Black And Red United define a list of five priorities for D.C. United to address in the coming year. Five New Years' Resolutions, so to speak. I'm not all that good at keeping my own promises, so I just make promises for others instead.
I'll be presenting a list of five resolutions for 2012 in January, but as we approach the end of 2011, let's look back at our five resolutions from Jan. 26, 2011, and see how United did.
1. Make some progress on the stadium.
Its been 24 months now since we first identified this as a top five priority for United, and 12 since it became the top one. But despite an undoubted pursuit of potential stadium locations, partnerships, and funding to build, United has made no more public progress this year.
This was THE most important thing for United to do in 2011. If they had gotten everything wrong this year except for the stadium, 2011 would have been considered a success. United could have had a worse record than in 2010, traded Andy Najar for Julian de Guzman, fired Ben Olsen and replaced him with Fernando Clavijo, and drafted a kid out of Anchorage instead of Akron, but if they had finalized a deal to build a new soccer specific stadium inside the Capitol Beltway, I'd still call 2011 a successful year.
The business side of United is quickly overtaking the technical side in the minds of more and more United fans. Sort of takes the fun out of it. Winning almost seems pointless when you don't have a place you can truly call home.
Spoiler alert: Stadium progress will be the No. 1 priority again in 2012.
2. If you can't control injuries, get deeper.
You can't control injuries. That's become quite clear over the past several years. But did United get deeper? Yeah, I'd say so. When a starting center back went down in 2010, he was replaced by guys like Carey Talley and Juan Manuel Pena. This year, he was replaced by Ethan White. Even if you don't think he's better than those two (you're crazy), at least he's younger. At least we're building the future with our reserves, rather than helping aging players postpone retirement. Similarly, United added young depth at other positions - Blake Brettschneider, Austin da Luz, and Joe Willis were all good additions to help the team get deeper while also holding potential to be on the roster for years to come.
3. Find a striker who can score consistently.
13 goals from Dwayne De Rosario. 11 goals from Charlie Davies. That's a big check mark! Even Chris Pontius, Josh Wolff, and Najar equaled the highest scorers on the team from last season.
4. Score from free kicks.
United scored two goals directly from free kicks this season - one from Marc Burch, and one from De Rosario. While that isn't quite the consistent trend of success from dead ball situations that we were looking for, its progress, and progress is good. In De Rosario, United now has a proven kick taker. I look forward to this total growing in the future.
5. Continue to build organically.
After seeing two homegrown players turn in significant minutes in 2010, United added a third in 2011 with White. Will they add a fourth in 2012? I'm not sure that the team sees any current Academy players as ready to chip in immediately, but 2012 should at least be the year that Conor Shanosky begins to earn some playing time.
Unfortunately, United didn't quite come through on my statement that "the last thing I want United to do is trade away a second round draft pick for an older player who could push us over the top", since our second round pick in the 2012 MLS Draft actually belongs to the Columbus Crew (sent west in a trade for Jed Zayner, who has no apparent future with this team).
But the intent remains that United should do most of its growth through acquisitions of young players with the potential for greatness, not stop-gap veterans who aren't long-term solutions.