The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Reloaded!

Posted by steigs on January 29, 2008

D says that DC United have been rebuilt and backs it up with a look at the turnover just since the beginning of ’06.

 The mass South American arrivals this week certainly give it that look.  That said, adding guys nicknamed “Doll” and “Dwarf” doesn’t do a whole lot to change the size of the team now, does it?  Got a squat player with flair to sell — give us a call, we’re your side!  And I think our female fans may find Gallardo is not exactly the pin-up that Christian has been.   (The joke is that “doll” Gallardo is closer to Chucky than Ken.  Decide for yourself.)

On a more serious note, this does look like a team built to compete in regional tourneys.  Former national teamers from South America aren’t likely to find playing Mexican teams especially different or intimidating.  In fact, it might be coming up against the rough-and-ready MLS style takes more adjustment for them than a Superliga or “CONCACAF Champions League” affair. 

D also sees this as a crucial year for the front office, making all these moves despite so much (regular) season success:

…this is a year that demands that we truly examine our coaching and front office. Players will win or lose games, but the front office and management will win or lose this season. They, more than any other parties, are responsible for the 2008 campaign. They had done right by us in the past, but the price of professional sports is inevitably “what have you done for me lately.” The departure of Boswell, of Gomez, of Perkins… these all signify that while I give the roster moves of the past great credit, they do not matter for this season. This season is about the choices we have seen being made. 

True that.  They built up some capital with Emilio and Fred and now they’re spending it by letting a former league MVP walk.  But I’m down with it so far.  For one thing, I remember the long drought after ’99, when the original great team fell apart and degenerated.  I’m willing to chance rebuilding on the fly.  The other is the tremendous frustration of the last few post-seasons.  All that build-up and so little play-off success.  (Insert double entendre, if you wish.)  As I posted before, I’m willing to chance a reloading effort since I can’t help but suspect that there was a problem somewhere in the team’s DNA. 

Here’s my concern.  We’ve got a bunch of new players and the team will probably take awhile to gel.  Yet we jump right into regional competition even before MLS gets going.  If we flop badly against a Mexican team in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, will people like D start questioning what we’re up to?  Good thing we’ve got this mysterious new Champions League to look forward to in the fall — by then Soehn better have figured out this new mix of players.  If we’re watching Gomez tear up the league for the Rapids while Gallardo nurses some injury and Boswell makes the all-star team while the new defenders are providing unnecessary Erpen-like drama, then things could get ugly come September.

That said.  This feels to me like an amplification of the team’s traditions.  We’ve always had a South America feel to the team, particularly our Bolivian connection.  We’re doubling down on that.  As the joke goes, Fulham may have more American players starting that DCU.  It’s almost like we’re turning into what Chivas USA originally promised to be.

Regular Bigsoccer poster JoeW sees this as a matter of DC United taking advantage of a comparative advantage we have over other MLS teams.   We’ve built up the relationships, the brand name, and the dollar goes further than in Europe.  That makes some sense.  In addition, I think he also may underestimate the appeal of the Washington area for an international player.  Sure, we’re not New York or Hollywood but we’ve got a vibrant immigrant community, particularly for Latin players, and plenty of other foreigners working here. 

Now if we could only get a beautiful new stadium to appeal to those players.  Sigh. 

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