On Sunday afternoon, one team will be playing for pride - or maybe for roster spots and camp invitations, who knows? - and one team will be playing for their playoff lives. D.C. United could spoil the Houston Dynamo's season this weekend, just as Houston knocked United out of the Eastern Conference Finals last year. (Okay, maybe it's not exactly the same.) To help us better understand the Orange as they come into this match, I exchanged a few questions with Alicia Tolar of Dynamo Theory, SB Nation's site dedicated to all things Brad Davis & Co. Here's what was said:
Questions for Dynamo Theory
B&RU: Seriously, Houston. You had one job to do: don't lose to the Metros thereby giving them the inside track to their first trophy. We don't ask you Texans for much here in D.C., but the one time we ask you to show up against our rivals, you go and lose 3-0 at home. What gives?
DT: Simply put I am ashamed. That game is one that I would like to flush from my memory. The first goal could be written off as a fluke but the other two? Ugh. This team isn't gelling like they have in the past.
B&RU: The Dynamo have had a knack for finding their way into the playoffs by getting hot at exactly the right time and then running through to the finals. If the Dynamo manage to leapfrog one of the teams ahead of them and get into the postseason again this year, what do you make of their chances for a run to a third straight MLS Cup Final?
DT: Having watched them play recently I'd say not good but knowing their history I'd say good. It is entirely possible that they make a run and win the Cup but this team isn't as strong as last year's team or the year befores but in sports it depends on your opponents (and sports Gods) as much as yourself. I don't think we can get there. Our defense is uncommunicative mess and our strikers can't score goals.
B&RU: What are your thoughts on the Adam Moffat trade to Seattle? The Dynamo have been surprisingly adept at making deft moves late in the year - which is a part of their postseason success I mentioned in my last question. How does the acquisition of Servando Carrasco fit into that pattern?
DT: Emotionally it was hard but intellectually I think it was a great move. Moffats production was down this season, yes he would send in a great Moffat Rocket for a goal but the rest of the game he would be a non-factor. This team has started to age and we needed to bring down our median age and Carrasco does that. He also shows a lot of promise in the limited time he has seen since signing he has provided a good spark in the mid-field. I think he has a great potential if we make it into the playoffs I think he would make a great off the bench sub. Next season I expect to see him start.
Questions for Black and Red United
DT: With this season a wash what hopes if any do you guys have for this game?
B&RU: Mostly not to embarrass ourselves, honestly, not that it's likely. Even if United don't lose horribly, anything but a win will give the Black-and-Red sole possession of the record for fewest wins in MLS history. And a win will merely give us a share of that record, so... woot? Given the utter failures of the season, I'll be pretty content with a spirited, competent showing that doesn't leave anybody injured and in jeopardy of missing the start of preseason.
DT: The team had a lot of front office changes - do you think that played a significant role in the team's decline this season? Has this season exposed Ben Olsen's lack of coaching experience?
B&RU: Well, most of the front office changes weren't actually to the technical staff. The team slimmed down the marketing and sales teams and refocused on a leaner enterprise. But the same frugality that pushed that cost cutting could also be seen on the playing side. Instead of bringing in experienced players to take United to the next level after the team finished with the third-best record in the league and were an uncalled Andre Hainault red card away from the MLS Cup Final, the team went for younger, cheaper, unestablished talent. The results pretty well speak for themselves.
I think Ben Olsen would be the first person to tell you that this year has exposed his lack of experience. But given the poor construction of the roster, I'm not totally convinced that firing him midseason would have improved the on-field results in league play (and given the charmed nature of United's run to the USOC title, it probably would have ended up meaning no trophy, which is ironic and hilarious). Next spring, we'll get to see what he's learned from this trying year - hopefully it was a lot, and going through such a painful season won't be for nothing.
DT: What does the team need to do in the offseason to get back on track?
B&RU: What don't they need to do in the offseason to get back on track? There are so many priorities that the team needs to realize that we over at B&RU launched an interactive priority ranking to see where United fans think the technical staff and front office should be focusing on. On the field, the top answers are for a game-breaking forward and an organizing presence in central defense, both of which were completely lacking this year (and to some extent last year as well). But fans also recognize that United's international scouting has been woeful for years now, so improving that looks like a prerequisite to any international signings, or else we may once again be taken down the road of Rafael Teixeira de Souza and Marcos Sanchez and too many other names to list here.
More from Black And Red United:
- D.C. United versus Houston Dynamo lineup: Let us put this season to bed
- Debating D.C. United's Offseason Priorities
- D.C. United Offseason 2013-2014: You be the GM
- Episode 53: Nobody can remember when a team playing 2-3-5 lost
- D.C. United to play Malmo FF and other international teams during the 2014 preseason