We've already taken a look back at the goals that we set for D.C. United in 2014 - a year in which our beloved team made significant progress on and off the field. Certainly a year that we won't soon forget. Now we look ahead to a new set of New Years Resolutions for the team to go after in 2015.
Remember, these are resolutions for the team to accomplish, not for us as fans. Here are the five goals that we'd like to see D.C. United solve in 2015.
1. The Proverbial Shovel
2014 was the year that the new D.C. United stadium's legal proceedings climaxed in the D.C. Council approving and Mayor signing bills to enable the District to assemble and pay for the land and logistics necessary for construction. 2015 should be the year that the construction process actually begins. But before we all grab our shovels and mobilize upon Buzzard Point, we should acknowledge that there is plenty more work to do, in terms of finalizing the finances, drafting building plans, permitting, bidding out trades, and more before even the demolition of the existing structures can begin. All of this takes time. Well we've got 12 months of time to check off some of these boxes. So instead of merely stating our resolution as "Continuing The Stadium Progress" as we've said more ambiguously in previous years, we're setting our sights on the Proverbial Shovel. This might not necessarily mean literal shovels in the dirt, but by the end of 2015, I'd like to see some physical evidence that the construction process has begun. We're hoping that the new stadium will be open at some point in the 2017 MLS season, if not by the March season opener. For this to happen, the team must get underway with the construction process this year without delay.
2. Win A Trophy, While Competing Seriously For Four
The last time we set a goal for D.C. United to win a trophy was the last time that the team was coming off a playoff appearance. That year, United did indeed win one trophy - the 2013 U.S. Open Cup - but completely flamed out in the MLS season. So you'll forgive me for being a bit more careful with the wording this time around. D.C. United will be involved in at least three different competitions in 2015 (MLS, USOC, CCL), but could be involved in as many as five. United has already reached the Quarterfinal stage of the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League, and by the end of April could also qualify for the Club World Cup. And if United earns a spot in the MLS Playoffs, that would be a fifth trophy for which the team will be eligible to compete. We'll leave goals of winning four-to-five trophies to more cocksure fanbases, but we should have confidence that our team will seriously compete for at least four, and win at least one. This means that United must either win the CCL or return to the MLS Playoffs to accomplish this goal. And add to our trophy case at the same time. A bold challenge for sure, but let's do it.
3. Add International Talent
After dominating MLS 1.0 on this front, United has now fallen far behind the rest of the league in international acquisitions for many years. And while the team was successful at utilizing many domestic means for player acquisitions in 2014, those resources will be far more limited this year, as the team does not have a high draft pick to yield us another Steve Birnbaum, nor did United have the opportunity to secure players of the caliber of Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin, and Fabian Espindola in the Re-Entry Draft. United's new players produced above our expectations last year, but with so many now on the wrong side of 30, we cannot afford to stand pat. We cannot afford to stand idly by while other teams shop for new starters abroad. We'll spare you the list of discarded international acquisitions at this stage, as its the lone point of failure in our roster construction, but this must be rectified. Although United isn't going into the season with a ton of holes in its starting lineup, the team should still seek to add no less than one solid international contributor. Injuries to Franklin, Luis Silva, and Chris Rolfe probably cost us a playoff series last season. If we'd had some international talent to bring off the bench, things could have been different. Let's change that in 2015.
4. Continue The United Tradition Of Homegrown Success
D.C. United has set the bar high in developing its early homegrown players, with Bill Hamid and Andy Najar among the most talented homegrowns in MLS history. We'd like to see some signs that that successful tradition will continue this year. Collin Martin and Michael Seaton each contributed some meaningful minutes for United in 2014, but did not make much of a significant impact in any game quite yet. Martin should emerge as a regular substitute this season, with a few statistics next to his name. I'd also hope for Seaton to take the next step forward in his career, and Jalen Robinson to at least earn some appearances in Richmond. In addition to developing the homegrown players already on the first team roster, United should be looking to add to that list in 2015. There are several Academy graduates who were major players for their NCAA teams last season. If they have the talent to contribute at the next level, they should be considered for homegrown contracts this year.
5. Grow The Local Profile
In 2014, D.C. United was rarely ever mentioned by local TV news stations and sports talk radio stations. The team was lucky to get any kind of highlights or quick blurbs in sports update segments. United didn't even get an honorable mention in the Bog's top 10 most memorable games of 2014, despite winning its conference regular season crown. Your average casual D.C. sports fan has no idea that our MLS team made the playoffs, because no one told him. We're tired of only hearing about the teams from the "four major" sports leagues in this market. That's not the way the soccer teams are treated by the media in Seattle, Portland, and Kansas City. With a new stadium to fill in just two years, United should be seeking to increase its local profile through media exposure this year. If the team keeps winning, and especially if its attendance numbers keep growing, so too should the coverage by local media outlets. It's always been a catch 22 - TV/radio doesn't cover United because not enough viewers/listeners care, but not enough viewers/listeners care because no one is talking about the team. Something has to change. Prolonged winning of course should cure all.
These are some challenging goals, but these resolutions should be within reach for D.C. United in 2015. Do you have any resolutions of your own for the team?