Does DC United Need a Powerhouse Name?

Pirlo is coming to NYCFC. Is it time DC United get their own Pirlo?

Pirlo is coming to NYCFC. Is it time DC United get their own Pirlo?

My question to all of you.

Does DC United need a superstar powerhouse name on the squad?

Does the team need one to succeed on the field? How about off the field? Here's why I am asking the question.

I don't actually think United needs a superstar to win the MLS Cup. I think the moneyball "grab MLS rejects with chips on their shoulders" method works. I am very fond of this team, the personality, each and every player, etc. However, the fact of the matter remains, DC United are sitting dead last in average attendance. Marketing sucks. The most historic team in MLS no longer has the most stars over its badge and I'm worried it might remain like that for some time as LA gets more stars, both over its badge and on the field. DC United, a team in the nation's capital, seems as small on the map as the Rapids or the Crew. Winning seasons help our reputation. They put butts back in the seats. But shouldn't a team sitting atop the league table in a city that consistently ranks near the top for international soccer TV ratings have more than 14.5K average attendance? What is it that's keeping us so small?

I think a lot of us are praying that the new stadium solves all our problems. A lot of us have personal experiences proving certain people avoid attending DC United games because RFK is, to put it nicely, a dump. Many of us love the RFK feel, but we know the stadium itself is falling apart, literally. Apparently there's even a tumblr page dedicated to RFK chunks. We also know how stupid expensive it is to remain at RFK. It's not en envious position to be in for an owner. We're riding the assumption that as soon as Buzzard Point is up and running (still waiting for that shovel in the ground), the owners will suddenly be able to pour money into a team. But what happens if this is not instantaneous? Losing money every year in RFK is financially burdensome. Building a stadium puts an even bigger hole in one's wallet. It may take some time before the owners find themselves in a position to present us with a team full of Pirlos and Villas. So what then?

A new stadium is bound to bring in fans to sit in the seats jump up and down on supposedly bouncy stands. However, a nice shiny stadium cannot sustain attendance. DC United has no marketing, or rather, very little marketing. But what do we market?

"Come to the game next week!" Does that work?

"Come to the game next week to see Bill Hamid and Perry Kitchen!" Well, that's a start, but despite their importance to this team and our joy at watching these superstars on the fringe of national team glory,defense doesn't sell tickets.

"Come to the game next week to see Chris Rolfe and Fabian Espindola!" An interesting problem here for marketability. Chris Rolfe is a magician with a headband (or a magician because of his headband). He works wonders with the ball at his feet. Hardcore MLS fans recognize his name and DC United fans love his character. Espindola attacks defenses and makes them pay. There aren't many in the league that know what to do with him. To be frank, I'm not sure we know what to do with him either. We give him the freedom to do whatever he wants, and that freedom produces goals and red cards. But why are these two players not hitting it big time in the marketability? As unfair as it is, I think it's because they are MLS names who do not have much of a national team presence. Rolfe's last USMNT game? Not this decade. Fabian Espindola for Argintina? Well, that's a rather stacked country to make the squad.

If we want to sell tickets, we need a big name. This might not bring home an MLS Cup immediately, but it may very well be necessary for our survival in this league. Forget for one second that LA and NY are cities that foreign athletes would love to live in. It's not a sure shot to claim athletes. LA has no football team and the Lakers are... struggling. NY has some consistentcy today for sports greatness, but some teams certainly aren't feeling the love year in and year out (Jets, Mets). LA Galaxy have built up a market of stardom. It's THE go-to place for superstars and a shot at a title. I wonder what will happen when Bruce Arena no longer coaches the team, but I sure don't see the Galaxy becoming irrelevant any time soon. NYCFC IS money. I don't like the Yankees. I don't like Man City. I don't like money buying teams and hoping it works. However, it certainly sells tickets and this summer is going to be huge for NYCFC. I suspect LAFC to be the west coast NYCFC. Time will tell. NYRB are in a lull right now with stardom, but they've had their stardom in the past (Henry to name one...). It's only a matter of time as the Hudson River Derby grows that NYRB will open the wallet to compete with NYCFC. These two cities are built on money and stars; the cities themselves are perks for the players.

Now let's look elsewhere. Seattle is big and is here to stay. I don't know how they've gotten so many fans where other cities have not. But gosh darn it, they're not going anywhere and with Dempsey and Martins leading the charge, soccer is beautiful to watch in Seattle and the fans demand greatness... something the owners will have to keep up with by signing names to replace those two in the years to come. Toronto... where to start. It's certainly not a city people around the world think of when they are asked "Where would you like to settle down to make some money?" But somehow, Toronto's done just that with Bradley, Defoe (exiled), Giovinco, and Altidore. They're a big name in MLS now. Whether or not they succeed and get a trophy, who knows. They can stink it up, but they'll still have fans in the stands watching some really big name players. This dive into stardom I think will keep Toronto relevant for years to come. I really do.

But there lies the problem. Toronto draws fans and media time without performing all that well on the field. Why can't DC? I grow weary of reading the attendance numbers week in and week out. I grow tired of seeing article after article about LA, NY, Seattle, and Toronto on media outlets. As both United and Black and Red are being taken away from us by Minnesota, Atlanta, and LAFC, I'm saddened by thinking how irrelevant DC United is becoming, however unjustly warranted this irrelevance is. Perhaps what we need is a star. Someone to sell tickets. With full seats comes attention. With attention comes media. With media comes awareness. More stars will want to be apart of that attention and that media. We already have the history. A once glorious team fallen into the shadows now rising again to fame and prosperity. The Green Bay Packers of MLS.

Obviously it takes more than a few names to achieve greatness. The coaches and FO have to be smart about it. But I'm tired of being successful and still not getting any attention. I'm tired of having the lowest attendance in the league. We likely aren't getting any stars this summer or any time before the stadium is built, but perhaps we need one or two to finally put Washington DC back on the MLS map. So I pose the question one more time?

Does DC United need a superstar powerhouse name on the squad?

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