Well the "special announcement" sent to season ticket holders a couple of weeks ago turned out to be special for someone in particular, as Managing General Partner Jason Levien (fresh off his stop at the Kojo Nnamdi show earlier in the day) inked presumptive MLS Coach of the Year finalist Ben Olsen to a multi-year extension. The biggest surprise in this piece from Goff is that the term of the deal runs for five years, guaranteed money, and salary would be restructured to another position within the club if he were to be relieved of his duties.
So what does this mean? First and foremost, it means that if Levien's desire to have shovels in the ground in 2015 is any indication, it's that Olsen will likely be behind the bench at Leidos Soccer Specific Stadium and Mass Transit Extravaganza at Buzzard Point. And depending on how you like your optics is a supremely righteous thing. And as a fan of Ben the person, player and (to an extent) coach, having an icon there for such a thing is just that. And consider this: Olsen is currently the fifth longest-serving coach in MLS for one team behind (in order) Dominic Kinnear, Bruce Arena, Sigi Schmid and Peter Vermes. Should he serve out this contract he will likely be even higher up on that list (Arena is 63, Schmid 61) AND he will be 42. Mind-boggling.
But that is not the question to be raised. Recently, Alexi Lalas raised a point which to paraphrase was sure, D.C. United's success this year is to be lauded and the work that Olsen and Dave Kasper did in getting the pieces they wanted is worthy of emulation if circumstances at similar clubs merit. However, the fact of the matter remains that a portion of the current Black and Red roster are various misfit toys that find themselves in the same locker at the same time. If you have locked down your coach and know where you will be playing soon (as this extension seems to justify), there has to be some evolution in thought and process past the here and now, and the creation of an identity in your next phase of existence. With the coaching position sorted, is it the beginning of that evolution?
Which leads me to a related thought: with Levien still working the City Council and the media to get Buzzard Point closer to reality, team operations not only continue pretty much as is but begrudgingly remain so for the near future. If there is any desire to get another level of management between Levien and Kasper in a Team President role, any potential job candidate goes into interviews with Levien knowing off the top that he is not going to have a chance to pick his coach unless one of two things happen: that the team has 1) rehashed their form of 2013 or 2) God forbid, worse than that. It should be noted that the upside of this is that if the propensity to acquire players with guaranteed, multi-year contracts hopefully went out the door with Kevin Payne, that Kasper may actually be working with the reins free. But would (to randomly throw a name out there) a Garth Lagerwey come here with his coach and general manager already picked out for him? Would a Mark McCullers? Would anyone?
With a five-year deal and Levien's goals for a new stadium and growing infrastructure getting bigger in the window, there is going to have to be a larger vision for the franchise which needs to get established and/or implemented. At least some visibility to how the sausage gets made will need to occur as more fans arrive (or return?) to Estadio RFK and Estadio New Place is going to have to occur. Maybe Levien is using the "Moneyball" philosophy that worked for him when he ran the Memphis Grizzlies. Maybe it really is a mix of homegrown blue-chip talent and proven commodities. But at some point one would presume that the closer we get to the desired "shovels in the ground" moment that some accompanying transactions with whatever the team's identity in mind would hopefully occur.
If there is something that is encouraging, it's that the plan on the field may have already begun. To borrow and expand on something Matt Doyle said recently, the other night against the Chicago Fire, D.C. United's 18-man roster included six players acquired in the draft (Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon, Chris Korb and Chris Pontius) and three homegrown players (Bill Hamid, Michael Seaton and Collin Martin). Samuel Inkoom is 25, Kofi Opare and Luis Silva turn 24 and 26 (respectively) next month. Granted, injuries and suspensions forced their hands to a degree Saturday night, but any experience for some of those guys is good experience. Not having to worry about his future in his occupation or location long-term should give Olsen, Ashton, Concina and Burpo the chance to get these guys in the best possible opportunities to exploit this to the betterment of the team in their (hopefully) soon to be approved digs. On the field, D.C. United may be back, but to borrow a phrase the team used, they need to be 'here to stay.' With any luck, if Jason Levien believes in Ben Olsen enough to give him five more years as Coach, it is with this in mind.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got this on a loop.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/RTT6bILrCnc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>