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D.C. United Midterm Grades, or A Redemption Story - Ben Olsen and Dave Kasper have had a very good 2014 (so far), but is it enough?

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After the terrible 2013 season and massive rebuild last winter, nobody expected D.C. United to be within spitting distance of first place at this point in 2014. But that's right where they are, so it's time to look at the architects of both seasons and ask what we think of the jobs head coach Ben Olsen and general manager Dave Kasper have done.

Rob Carr

Who'd have thunk it even four months ago? D.C. United aren't just in the conversation for the playoffs in MLS' Eastern Conference, they're one of three teams with a legitimate shot at claiming the top spot in the east, and the Champions League place that goes along with it. They've won 10 games of the 19 they've played, and they trail only the Sounders in potential points for the rest of the season. They're third best in MLS on goals against average, giving up just 1.05 goals per game, while also sitting in the top half of the league in goals scored per game, with 1.53. It's not always the most exciting brand of soccer, but it's getting results.

Compare that to a year ago, when... well, let's actually not get into it. It was bad, though. Really bad. Historically bad. So the improvement we've seen since the winter rebuild isn't just surprising, it's jaw dropping in a way. Teams that have just finished arguably the worst season in league history don't just bring in a bunch of MLS retreads and go worst-to-first. Except that D.C. United might be doing just that.

It's all enough to get MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle - the patron saint of American soccer nerds - to give Ben Olsen his midseason Coach of the Year award. Which actually got me thinking not just about Benny, but also about the other man responsible for the roster overhaul at the center of the club's turnaround, Dave Kasper. Specifically, given that while just over 2/3 of our readers voted to keep Olsen around after last season, and only 1-in-5 United fans wanted to see Kasper return for 2014, I'm wondering how opinions have changed with the recent success.

Just for the sake of completeness, here are the offseason moves United made after Fiasco 2013:

  • Let Dwayne De Rosario, John Thorrington and Lionard Pajoy walk.
  • Sold Dejan Jakovic to Japanese side S-Pulse.
  • Traded a bag of balls (well, an international roster slot we weren't using anyway) to Montreal for Davy Arnaud.
  • Selected Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell in the Re-Entry Draft first stage.
  • Selected Fabian Espindola and Nana Attakora in the Re-Entry Draft second stage.
  • Traded a truckload of allocation money to Seattle for Eddie Johnson, who eventually signed a new Designated Player contract.
  • Traded Ethan White and the top spot in the allocation order (basically, Maurice Edu) to Philadelphia for Jeff Parke.
  • Traded the #1 overall pick in the MLS Superdraft to Philly (which they used on goalkeeper Andre Blake) for allocation money and the #2 overall pick.
  • Selected Steve Birnbaum with the #2 pick in the Superdraft.
  • Traded a stack of cones (well, another international roster slot we weren't using anyway) to Montreal for a second-round Superdraft pick, which we used on Victor Munoz, who ultimately did not sign with the team and went instead to Sporting Kansas City, where he has yet to appear in a league match.
  • Selected Zach Barnes and Travis Golden in the late rounds of the Superdraft; neither signed with the team.
  • Signed Spanish fullback Cristian Fernandez.
  • Traded a future third-round draft pick to Seattle for Alex Caskey.

So, basically, a nice, quiet, uneventful offseason. Oh, and then of course, once the season started, there was the trade that scored us Chris Rolfe and his magic hairband in exchange for monopoly allocation money. Not a bad half-year's work for Kasper, a man most of us wanted to be rid of before the rebuilding process began.

Even after all that, though, it still fell to Ben Olsen to make sure the new personalities came together with the remnants of the previous roster to form an actual team, capable of winning games and being competitive. There can be no question he's done that, at least thus far.

Which brings us to today's question: What do we think of the jobs Kasper and Olsen have done since the end of last season? More to the point, have they done enough to save their respective jobs? It's an important question for the club, since both men are under contract only through the end of the year, and the ownership should already be thinking about the future makeup of the DCU braintrust.

This I put to you, hivemind: Should Benny and DK receive contract extensions in light of their very recent success? Vote in the poll below, and then have it out in the comments.