The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

DC United go AC Milan?

Posted by steigs on July 31, 2008

Over at Booked for Dissent, Dave’s been contemplating “how Kasper failed” DC United this season.  The team’s apparent lack of depth has clearly been a problem this season and a number of the off-season moves haven’t panned out.  (Niell?)  That said, I think DC United has done some decent shopping in the bargain bin so far, with Doe a plausible third forward and the chance taken on Quaranta partly paying off.  Now they’ve made a trade for a solid MLS veteran in Ivan Guerrero, which should help (and be popular with the Central American fans in my Mount Pleasant neighborhood).  And Gonzalo Martinez is at least one off-season move that’s been a plus.

The depth problem was brought home to me when I recently started a Championship Manager game with DC United.  (If you don’t know about the game, more here.)  The game started in January ’07 but we’d recently downloaded an update patch that resulted in a DC United roster that mixes the ’07 and ’08 rosters.  Martinez AND Vanney.  Gomez AND Gallardo.  Kpene AND Cordeiro.  (No Troy Perkins, though.)  Ben Olsen’s healthy.  This virtual DCU team looks rather like a juggernaut, at least in pre-season friendlies against USL competition.  I’m playing a 3-5-2 to get both Gomez and Gallardo on the field, with Christian playing up high and Gallardo in the center with Clyde at d-mid.  The board’s expectations are to reach at least one MLS Cup final in two years.  I’ll feel like an idiot if I can’t dominate MLS with all that talent.

Sigh.  Meanwhile, in the real world, this does seem like a team in need of its starting 11 to contend and with key players over 30 that’s always a gamble.  We’re not going to three-peat the Supporters Shield at this rate, that’s for sure.  What we do have is a potentially good cup team.  With Emilio, Moreno, Gallardo, Fred and a decent performance from the backline we can beat anyone in the league. 

I’ve seen this movie in European soccer in recent years — AC Milan.  An aging team (aside from Kaka) that used savvy veterans like Seedorf, Inzaghi, Gattuso, and Maldini to win one Champions League and should have won another, except for six minutes of madness in Istanbul.  At the same time, they never posed a serious threat to win Serie A.  Week in, week out, they gave away too many points, let the old legs take games off etc. 

DC United doesn’t have that much depth and our savvy veterans are having trouble staying healthy, as veterans often do.  But we could win trophies with just a handful of peak performances.  First of all, we’re probably only one good game away from the US Open Cup trophy.  Granted, a semi-final against the Revolution is no gimme but if we can win that, we’d get a USL side in the final. 

After that, DC United should be focused on getting healthy and ready for the play-offs.  This team should qualify, though perhaps in third or fourth place.  Once there, it only takes a couple of good games to have a shot to win it all.  That’s what we did in ’04, after all. 

Easier said than done, I know, especially with a team that has — let’s face it — choked in the play-offs the last couple of seasons.  The real challenge may be juggling the new CONCACAF Champions League games with the latter stages of the season.  Those international trips and extra games may be just the thing to ensure a Moreno or Gallardo aren’t 100% for the play-offs.  I hope Soehn has figured out a better way to rotate and rest the team by then. 

So pay attention to this Open Cup semi.  And remember we just need to make the play-offs.  It’s not like we’ve been able host the stupid Eastern final the last couple seasons anyway….

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