Let's think back to when we first learned of the Markus Halsti signing. D.C. United is not exactly known for stunning international gets, but Halsti seemed to tick all the right boxes.
He was experienced—he arrived from the Swedish first division's Malmö FF just shy of 31 years old. He had appeared in a few Champions League games. He played (well, plays) for Finland. He was flexible—billed as either a midfielder or a defender. He was sort of cheap—he came on a free transfer and collected a $275,000 base salary which, while not nothing, is on the lower side for a presumably high-caliber international. And he had a certain something—he seemed genuinely interested in our team and our city.
With Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud apparent locks to line up in the center of midfield, Halsti brought a bit of the "shake up" factor with him, too. Surely he'd compete for Arnaud's starting spot. Surely he'd possess a cool Nordic composure. Surely he'd be a viable option at centerback. Surely his headband would combine with Chris Rolfe's for a magic to render the Black-and-Red unbeatable.
He got off to an underwhelming start. An injury toward the end of preseason sidelined him until May, when he made his debut in a 1-0 loss away to the Philadelphia Union. The game was bad, but Halsti earned positive reviews.
After that, Halsti never earned a consistent spot in the first eleven. The most he played was in the backend of the season—not exactly the team's best streak of games. Obviously the blame does not fall solely to Halsti, at all. But the sour taste of a poor end to the regular season is enough to bring up questions about everybody. Is Halsti the right fit for DCU? Can he play effectively with Kitchen? Do we expect Kitchen to move on anyway and will thus turn to Halsti as our anchor? What if Kitchen doesn't leave? Is Halsti a better option than Arnaud (assuming Arnaud regains his health and returns for another year)? Remember Jared Jeffrey?
I still have generally positive feelings toward Halsti. I still think he's got the potential to be a really solid player for United. He showed us flashes of what he's capable of. I still am drawn in by his easy Finnish smile and sunny attitude and cannot-be-contained-in-a-manbun hair. I still see something there.
The question is if you still see it, too.