During a 2013 season where things were simply dreadful, coach Ben Olsen and general manager Dave Kasper decided that they simply wanted to get back to basics, go cheap(er) and young(ish), along with a mix of Major League Soccer castoffs. This started in 2013 with the acquisition of Luis Silva, continued with the 2013-14 offseason acquisition of Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin and Fabian Espindola through both stages of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, continued by leveraging some of their mechanisms (like the top allocation spot for US Internationals), a cause of frustration to some (this guy included), but, along with Ethan White, was turned into Jeff Parke and allocation money. It was traded away again, this time in-season to the Los Angeles Galaxy for Kofi Opare and a second-round draft pick. Other in-season moves included acquiring Chris Rolfe and David Estrada in separate trades, adding on to offseason acquisitions like Davy Arnaud and Designated Player Eddie Johnson. Of the ten new faces, eight would start and play substantial minutes in all or part of 2014.
Omitted from this list was the acquisition of Steve Birnbaum in the MLS SuperDraft, as D.C. traded down for you guessed it, allocation money with the Philadelphia Union. Birnbaum joined Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Chris Korb and Joe Willis as draftees who contributed to D.C.'s success in the regular season and/or CONCACAF play. Joining them was the surprise emergence of fullback Taylor Kemp, a 2013 SuperDraft draftee who had spent a large bulk of time with D.C.'s USLPRO affiliate in Richmond. Along with the draftees, Jalen Robinson was signed to a Homegrown contract, the seventh such signing in the team's history, and joined Bill Hamid, Conor Shanosky, Collin Martin and Michael Seaton on the professional roster (White was also a HGP).
The hopes of having this misfit group of toys together in one place was that they would bring D.C. United back to some level of respectability in 2014. What they did not expect was the team would finish as Eastern Conference Champions in the regular season, and top seeds heading into the CONCACAF Champions League Tournament knockout stages in 2015, following their entry by winning the 2013 U.S. Open Cup, a win that was bemoaned by those who thought D.C.'s entry would 'tarnish' the tournament.
It was not all milk and honey for D.C. United this year. One would presume that D.C.'s poor showing in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals against (and eventual elimination at the hands of) the New York Red Bulls would result in some sort of disappointment. With a season of rebirth and newly-approved, long-awaited path to a soccer stadium now defined, there are some things about the team which need to be addressed. First and foremost is accountability. Kasper has another year on his contract and as far as we can tell, has no immediate reporting responsibility to management, other than to an owner (in Jason Levien) who has been understandably busy trying to get a new home arranged for the team. With this restriction gone, how much does Levien get involved with the team? Does he bring in a team president or some other management level that Kasper has to work with?
Second is that Kasper's record on signing international players continues to be unsteady. Spanish import Cristian Fernandez started off rocky but played well, becoming a decent MLS fullback before deciding to return to Spain midseason. He joined Rafael, Marcos Sanchez, Emiliano Dudar and Hamdi Salihi as single season (or less) international signings who were let go or returned home. I note that I limited this to the 2012-2014 seasons and posted it during the day because the urge to drink or punch things is reduced. I know that D.C. has had to deal with limited resources the last several years, looking at market outliers in second or third tier levels, or out of contract players that can come in on a free and perhaps be of some value to them. But for as solid a drafter as Dave Kasper is and as good as the Homegrown Program is for D.C., his international record of late is the yang to the domestic ying.
I bring up Kasper's presumed lack of supervision here again because is that at some point (and we've mentioned it before) he (and to a degree Olsen) need to figure out what the identity of D.C. United will be when they get to said stadium. Now that the latter is presumably secure, when does this start? Does the addition of resources mean Kurt Morsink will have co-workers in the Scouting Department? Now that it would appear the team may be able to spend money on things, one would think there is more opportunity to improve the roster. And in a year where two expansion teams have dibs on the offseason player acquisition mechanisms, a General Manager cannot bank on being able to snatch up retreads alone.
This isn't to say D.C. hasn't done anything this offseason, Going into 2015, D.C. is starting by banking some allocation money both by their Conference title and due to some trades made with New York City FC and Orlando City SC for international spots they had no immediate plans for using (as far as I can tell, they will have four entering 2015). They also acquired Andrew Driver from the Houston Dynamo for Willis and Samuel Inkoom, bolstering their midfield depth in an effective wash of salary cap hits.
Realistically he does not appear to be leaving anytime soon, but what should Dave Kasper do in 2015? Should he be given the chance to be the General Manager even further past the nine years with the team as GM that the end of 2015 would give him? Should there be a Team President or COO (a la Michael Bolingbrooke for Erick Thohir's Inter Milan) that should be employed the closer we get to Buzzard Point?