30 November 2007

Let's Guess at DC United's Budget Outlays

Perhaps this is a game that's fun only to me, but let's take a guess at what United is actually spending in a given year. We know from the article that Oscar linked yesterday that rent at RFK is $18K a game. Oscar hypothesizes that the $10M loss MacFarlane claims is a loss in opportunity cost (i.e., he's not making the $10M he could if he had a new stadium). Let's see if we can figure out a way that a $10M loss, if United were operated as its own team regardless of revenue sharing, could be explained in any other terms. In short, we stipulate to no revenues whatsoever, let's see how much we can run up in costs.

We start with salaries. Assume that in 2008 United ponies up salaries up to the Salary cap. That's $2.25M, but it likely doesn't include the cost of benefits. So we'll add 20% to salary costs to cover benefits and the like. We also have to assume some overhead costs for the players, including their lockers, meals at games, travel costs, uniforms, etc... Let's make that roughly 40% of the modified salary number. And we'll have to include stadium costs in addition to rent, such as security, I imagine DC pays for the lights at game time, so that's some more cash, plus they rent the auxiliary fields... And we'll need the Front Office salaries, as well as their equipment and office space rent... And the various fees to contractors for legal services, medical services, field management, etc...

Anyways, for your benefit, the spreadsheet below is what I've developed, and as a general rule it seems about right. I figure I may have slightly underestimated the cost of just doing business in DC, but it at least seems like a decent grounds-up estimation of DC United's spending:

Now, this has no accounting for revenues of any sort. So unless United is pulling in less than $1M a year (unlikely, given not just ticket sales but also corporate sponsorships and the like) then the $10M number seems like it almost has to be an opportunity cost number, and not an actual number. That seem right to everyone? Can we make this perhaps a bit more accurate? C'mon, I know we can.

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And do you, Pwincess Nadine... -- Man and Wife, Say Man and Wife!

The Journal Star (serving Central Illinois since 1855) has a fun article on Bryan Namoff's impending wedding, and the dramatic choices he now confronts. I wish Namoff and the woman to whom he will be wed all the good fortune in the world, and I wish no good luck to the Bradley University soccer program. Although I think with the help of Inigo, Bryan could have found a way to hurry the ceremony along a bit, and still make the game.


29 November 2007

Watch the Skies

In the day or two before DC United was sold to MacFarlane's group, this blog saw an increase in searches for "D.C. United sale" or variants thereof. Similarly, when Nowak was out, we saw an increase in people reaching this site on searches for "Peter Novak United" and similar. Now, that just may mean that speculation was rife, or it might mean that people had an inkling it was coming and wanted to see if it had broken yet. Now, I'm seeing a larger number than normal of people using the search terms "veron" and "united." Is it just the traffic one would expect from the rumors that have been reported, or is there something else happening?

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From DC: Goodbye. To DC: Goodbye? For DC: Goodies.

CROWE, MUPIER, NORTH, AND WILLIS OUT: United waives four reservists. All of these were something of longshots to make the team, but this does represent another year in which many draft picks did not pan out for United. To recap: First draft pick Bryan Arguez is Generation Adidas, so there's no downside to keeping him. Second round pick Brad North is out now. Third round pick Jay Needham elected to play in USL. Third round pick Ricky Schramm was cut before the start of the season. Fourth round pick Luis Robles also failed to stay with the team.

The good news was the the dice rolled well in the supplemental draft. While Shawn Crowe will not be staying with DC, Kpene came from the supplemental round and at least has shown enough to earn continued looks as a potential first team contributor (In fact, his 626 minutes played mean that our third round supplemental pick had more minutes than the top 5 supplemental picks combined).

To those now leaving DC United, we wish them well in all geographical areas except New York City.

SOCCER SPECIFIC STADIUMS IN LOCALES STARTING WITH "P": It's not Poplar Point, but it's Prince George's County. Metro accessible would make this more palatable, but not having United in DC is saddening. Still, the financial future of the team may make this the only option available (although part of me hopes that this is simply a Plan B bargaining position, it is starting to feel like leaving DC may become inevitable.) [NOTE: I'd simultaneously posted on the stadium while D was preparing this morning's round up - Oscar]

DO GOOD, GET STUFF: The legendary equipment sale made the Post today. Proceeds to United for DC. Good stuff.

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Stadium Update - PG County?

The Post reports thsi morning that United has been talking with PG County about using land near Greenbelt and New Carrolton. Apparently, the team had looked at these areas years ago, and is actively looking at options outside the District.
Both of those areas are Metro-accessible and have land sufficient to accommodate a mixed-use development anchored by a stadium, Byrd said.
Metro-accesibility will be key to maintaining much of the fan base, if the team has to move out of the District. The owners should learn from Dallas' suburb experiment, which caused their attendance to tank. For that reason, Sterling/Dulles area in Virginia should be out of the question.

The other, and arguably more interesting tidbit, is that "United plays at 46-year-old RFK Stadium, where MacFarlane has said the franchise is losing $10 million a season." Its interesting to parse that wording, because on first read you get the impression that the $10 million could be the total net loss for operating the team. But, what I expect MacFarlane really is telling us, that playing at RFK costs them $10 million a season. It doesn't have to be actual operating costs such as leasing RFK, paying for security. In that sum, you can lump in the "cost" of not receiving any concession, beer, parking, and other ancillary money from game days.


28 November 2007

Succession Planning

If there's something we know, it's that United's front office thinks ahead. They kept tabs on Luciano Emilio for years before bringing him into the fold. No sooner had Piotr Nowak left the head coaching position than Tom Soehn was promoted. They replaced Freddy with Fred seamlessly, and things moved on.

Now, the off-season tends to make me depressed and gloomy, but I should also acknowledge that this team generally makes efforts to get better. So it's worth speculating what the plans are. We know of the pursuit of Veron in Argentina, and while he wouldn't be my first choice for a designated player from that part of the world (that would still be Riquelme... look, I can dream, right?) I've come to accept he's a good option. The conventional wisdom is that Veron, in addition to being a talented midfielder, is insurance against a possible Christian Gomez departure. That makes sense, but I want to throw another idea out there: Veron also helps the succession planning for Jaime Moreno if Gomez stays around.

In 2007, we saw Tom Soehn move Christian forward more frequently then Piotr Nowak would. And there's a certain logic to using Christian in a withdrawn forward type position. He can still create chances, he can still track back for the ball (although perhaps not as deep, but with Veron he theoretically would not need to), he has a decent shot from 20 yards out, and he's elusive in tight corners. The one downgrade is that I don't think he plays quite as well holding the ball at the top of the box than Jaime does (Christian can hold the bell well around the center circle, but the dynamics of midfielders trying to knock you off the ball and those of defenders are different). If Jamie were to go somewhere else (sad, but it must be considered) or see his playing time reduced (we know that must be considered) then it seems to me that Gomez would have to be considered a top candidate to move into that position -- moreso than Addlery, Kpene, Dyachenko, or any of the other reserve forward options.

Now, this premise sort of implies a few things: United would have to find a way to keep Gomez and Veron without Gomez getting Designated Player type money. That could be a difficult sell, but it is still possible. Getting Gomez to $300K is not impossible, and would be a 20% increase over his current yearly salary. Would Gomez be willing to take that? I don't know. Veron's going to count as $400K against the cap at least (and a salary around the $2M mark would not surprise me). But I can see uses for Veron beyond the obvious one-for-one substitution for Gomez, and that's intriguing.

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27 November 2007

Oh puke!

Nevermind that DC United is the most successful franchise in MLS. Better get your Fathead for the Revs, the Fire and TFC.

Tuesday's Tryptophan Fighting Coffee

So The DCenters is awakening from our turkey slumber and we are realizing that we missed some news bits the past couple of days. If you joined your friends and family in giving thanks and skipped out on your DC United fix for some good home cooking this is the post to get you (and us) caught back up.

Carroll No Longer with DCU: Yeah, we saw this one and probably should have said a few words. San Jose taking Brian was expected, what was not expected was that he would be traded to Columbus for Kai Kamara. Either way we would just like to echo Dave Kaspar's comments,
"Brian has been a model professional on and off the field for D.C United, and we thank him for his five terrific years at the club."
Carroll was never a fan favorite at United but when he was on he made every other players job easier and made it possible for them to wow the crowd and please the fans. Clyde has basically been the starting D-Mid since the 2007 All-Star break, and Carroll was never as good in 2007 as he was in years past, but his service to DC United has been crucial to the success they have had since 2004. Only Moreno, Etcheverry, Olsen, Williams, Pope, Agoos, Namoff and Prideaux have played more minutes for United than Carroll.

Veron Rumors Pick Up Steam: Goff is hearing reports that a decision might be coming by December 15th. This would be an interesting move for United. I don't know how it will play out, but it could have interesting ripple effects in player moves, locker room cohesion and goals for next season.

CONCACAF Champions Cup: Six of the eight teams in the 2008 CONCACAF Champions Cup are set. CD Montagua, Deportivo Saprissa, Harbour View, Pachuca, DC United and the Houston Dynamo are already in the competition. CSD Municipal and LD Alajuelense are fighting for the third Central American spot which will be decided on December 4th, while the second Mexican spot will go to the winner of the Apertura. The Apertura season is down to four teams as Santos will play Pumas and Chivas will meet Atlante in the semifinals. So DC United could face Chivas yet again, though betting money has to go to Santos at this point. Goff is reporting that the dates for the first leg of the CCC are March 11-13 (first leg) and 18-20 (second leg). So that is when the off season ends.

DC United 2007 Player Grades: UnitedMania has given out player grades for the 2007 season. For the most part I agree with these grades. The grades seem to be given out based on expectations, making Burch one of the two people with an A, but overall it is a solid analysis.

Joe Machnik Interview: Kenn.com has a great interview with MLS’ Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner for On-Field Competition (wow, thats a long title) Joe Machnik. Basically Dr. Machnik is the guy in the MLS' organization that deals with the referees. The interview covers the entire officiating gamut and every MLS fan should read it.

MLS Blows Decision by Blowing the Galaxy: Ives reports on the decision by the honchos at MLS HQ to grandfather the contracts of Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson and Carlos Ruiz so that their teams would not need to make them Designated Players to keep them. Basically they changed the rules halfway through the game...again. Frankly I thought MLS was beyond this, but I guess not. More than anything else in US Soccer, tampering like this is the thing that pisses me off the most.

2010 World Cup Qualifying: The draw was held on the 25th. The US will play the winner of Dominica and Barbados. Assuming they win that game they will be drawn into a group that will probably consist of themselves, Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago and Guatemala. Assuming no upsets the Group B will be Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica and Canada while Group C will consist of Haiti, Panama, Guyana and Costa Rica.

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On the Death of Sean Taylor

The intersection of sports and mortality has a strange impact on people who write about sports. They start to talk about the "true meaning of things" and "what's really important in this world," as if the sports world they wrote about was a twisted and distorted version of reality, and now the scales have fallen from the eyes and the true beauty of the world in its most honest state can be seen. I think that's a disservice to the profession and professional work that athletes provide.

The news of Sean Taylor's passing is overwhelmingly saddening. We may not have known the man, or, as Dan Steinberg wrote, "I understood him less than any other player on the roster, even the ones I've never talked to." But we understood his competitiveness, his intense actions on the field. We feel our hearts break when you hear the story of a man putting his life together for the sake of a baby girl. Sean Taylor was someone I rooted for, even bringing a fictional version into this blog for an imaginary dialog with Christian Gomez to discuss the fine art of spitting on opponents. And now he's gone.

The complaint about fandom sometimes is that we take these games more seriously than anyone should, or that even athletes do. To them, it is a job. To us, we inflate these games into matters of life and death. This is true, but the mistake is in thinking that this is a bad thing. Death is a universal constant which shadows every moment of being as soon as you are aware of "being." And sports, athletic activity, is a celebration of being alive. That's why we care so much, the simple act of sport is a rejection of death at its most fundamental level. To move, to be capable of movement and thought, at the root that's what motivates us to care. And that's part of what we celebrated in Sean Taylor, a player who brought the capacity for movement in delightful, if violent, ways, onto the field every Sunday. To say that the story of his death will make sports seem trivial in comparison is to dishonor the man. The story of his life made death seem trivial in comparison. It's a lie, but it's one that we celebrate and choose to believe in all sports.


Mike H Is My Hero

I meant to write this before I went on Turkey vacation but didn't get to it in time. I just wanted to let you all know Mike H is my hero for writing this amazing post deifying The DCenters. His blog does a lot more than just stoke our egos though.

When I went through the list of nominated blogs I thought that My Soccer Blog was one of the ones I thought US Soccer should have included instead of the third US Soccer run blog. If you ever want succinct analysis on all the important US Soccer issues, My Soccer Blog is the place to go. It is on my rss feeder all the time, but when work or life is just too busy and I don't have time to read through all 35 soccer blogs on my feeder I know I can get all the pertinent information from Mike H. And unlike this blog, he is even-handed enough that I really don't remember (or even know if he ever told us) what team he roots for.

I love Du Nord because it literally has everything, but depending on how much time I have, sometimes that just means information overload. My Soccer Blog is the exact opposite, if Mike is writing about it it is almost always important for a US Soccer fan to know and he packs a lot of thought into some pretty short posts. I know I will be nominating My Soccer Blog next year for US Soccer's Best Blog Award. However, I reserve the right to vote for my soccer blog.

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26 November 2007

The Offseason is Here. It Sucks.

Here's why it is important to win the Supporter's Shield - It makes the offseason shorter when the CONCACAF Champion's Cup comes around. Because the off-season is about trying to find hope where you can, and the pickings for United will be slim barring the signing of a Senior International of Designated Player Acquisition. The draft will be a crap shoot at best, and the news until then is likely going to be about who's not with the team as opposed to who is.

With the departure of Brian Carroll to San Jose, and the impending Josh Gros retirement, DC's midfield has thinned somewhat. The upside is that the midfield is where we arguably had the most depth, so the losses are not in the category of "What the hell do we do now?" Still, United is starting to look a bit fragile as a long term bet. Consider: Moreno has limited time, Olsen has limited time, Gomez and Emilio both are at least entertaining of moving if not this season then perhaps the one after, Vanney is old, expensive, and not appreciably above average... If we didn't rebuild in 2007, and we don't in 2008, 2009 may feature a very different looking team.

The other major question has to be Tom Soehn. While his early season adjustments deserved credit, it is clear that he has been outcoached on more than one occasion in the past season. One of the things I liked about Soehn was his willingness to adapt to circumstances in the first half of the year. Then, during the unbeaten streak, that ability was not quite as useful, and wasn't employed nearly enough in the final ten games of the season/playoffs. With the exception of the Addlery substitution in the Chicago game, I can't think of many moments where Soehn made a move to compensate for events on the field in a positive way. The winning streak may have been the worst thing for us in that respect, as we went back to the theory of "Beat them by playing our game better" and not "counter their strengths and exploit their weaknesses." I have always maintained that the latter is more useful in MLS play, where head coaches can really make a difference due to the closeness of talent in the league. What I want to see next year is Tom Soehn maturing more as a coach and tactician. There's no reason to panic, indeed there is reason for hope here, but there's no reason to take anything on faith at this point either.


20 November 2007

Someone will say goodbye

The unprotected players list has been delivered (HT: Mike H.), and Bobby Boswell won the final immunity challenge as he is protected, leaving Vanney unprotected. Christian Gomez is also protected. Does that mean that United thinks Gomez is staying around another year? Not necessarily. Recall that in the 2005 expansion draft, Ryan Nelsen was left unprotected in the first round, but protected in later rounds despite it being a foregone conclusion that he was heading over the England.

Now, the conventional wisdom has decided that Brian Carroll or Greg Vanney are the most likely to be selected, but there are a few other players that we should at least give some consideration to the idea that they might not make it back. First among them is Rod Dyachenko. Rod was selected by FC Toronto last year, and we traded a first round pick to get him back (in a trade that fleeced United, especially when we learned that Dyanchenko would have problems getting across the border.) Now he's unprotected again, and I would hate to see history repeat itself. Rod is helped by the fact that Brian Carroll and Greg Vanney are both more likely to go, but if Frank Yallop wanted to move in a different direction I could see Dyanchenko fitting his plans. I can also see Yallop wanting a Jamil Walker type player for a few years, which means that while everyone sees Kpene unprotected, I can imagine him selecting Nicholas Addlery simply on the basis of knowing what to do with him. Of course, the talent shown to date makes the Carroll/Vanney choices more likely, but such a choice wouldn't stun me.

Of the unprotected list of players we've seen in the Starting XI, I would be stunned if Stephen DeRoux or Domenic Mediate were taken. Both have had good moments this year, but neither is assured of even making the team next season. There's a similar story with Justin Moose, who I seem to believe in more than most people, but a speedy player on the wing might be attractive to Yallop, since there's not a whole lot of that in the rest of the field that I would want to take a chance on.

Conventional wisdom is likely to hold. Carroll is most likely, followed by Vanney. But I would think that the rest of the list would be Dyachenko, Moose, Kpene, and Addlery, in order.

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19 November 2007

MLS Cup Weekend Redux

Is it possible to have enjoyed the weekend that just passed? Perhaps. Houston defeats New England to join United as the MLS Reps in the CONCACAF Champions Cup yet again, but at least the game was somewhat entertaining throughout all 90 minutes, as opposed to last year's tedium in slow motion. Houston, as they were last year, are worthy champions. But the emotions of the game? Well, I think Brian Garrison at An American's View summed it up quite nicely:

I commented to Sara as we walked up to the stadium this morning, "I feel like I am going to cheat on my girlfriend."
Still, as awful as it felt to watch another team win the MLS Cup, I can't imagine the feeling of having lost a fourth. If I were not who I am, I might admit to some small amount of sympathy for those Revolution fans that made the trip. Kids, that's gotta be tough, but I swear if you all turn into the taciturn morose Red Sox fans of pre-2004 days, I may have to smack you around some.

As for the USA-South Africa friendly, that was pretty much a dull tedious game to endure. Maybe I'm naive, but the USA seemed to have more flair and creativity when Bradley took over, and it has slowly disappeared. Still, the match was a win, and I met Bruce and Ives and commenter Jeffrey and others, and that's always good (and the part I enjoy the most.)

So now we're officially in the off season, and shockingly there is still work to be done. Drafts (expansion, super, and supplemental), player transactions, tense stadium negotiations... all of this will occupy our time. Oh, and self promotion as well (and there may be a bit of that this week.) Welcome to the offseason: I have a feeling it may not be as dull as it seems. Because, here's the thing. If United doesn't win the MLS cup next year, it will match the longest streak of time we've gone without adding a star. And that, my friends, is a bit worrisome.


17 November 2007

Who isn't disappointed with stadium progress?

The first place I lived after coming back to the DC metro area wasn't the greatest apartment you could find. It wasn't a dump, but it was an older apartment building with its share of issues. The front door's lock was perennially busted, the 1960s heater was this giant thing that ran across the living room ceiling and twice filled with water that spilled onto the carpet. On another occasion the bathroom ceiling dripped water. Towards the end it developed a heinous roach infection, which I prefer to blame on other tenants.

But it was also in an awesome location, close to work, and near the metro too. I threw some insane parties while I was there, and watched the 2002 World Cup in the wee hours of the night. I was focused on growing up and figuring out what do with my adult life to really notice. When my parents would come visit, I'd clean up and make the place presentable, but I knew that somehow, these weren't the conditions they expected me to live in permanently.

Goff posted a piece up on the post tonight, which will be tomorrow's print edition about Garber's disappointment in the progress on getting our own stadium. Thanks, commish, you're disappointed that the city pulled the rug out from under us? Join the club. Yeah, we'd like to have our stadium situation sorted out, but the team's busy competing in the MLS Cup, Open Cup, Superliga, Champions Cup, and Copa Sudamericana. I'm sure there are people at United HQ working 24x7 on the stadium issue, so I'm not trying to say the FO has in some way not worked hard on this issue. But come on, should it be a shock that you're disappointed? The article at least serves to keep the issue in the public eye (hopefully). We should be glad we haven't heard any ultimatums to move or lose the team, but its probably too early for that.

For now we've still got RFK, and honestly I think if a deal could be worked out that kept United there in a way they could be profitable, 99% of fans would support it. Someday, United might have to move out to the suburbs, and we'll be telling the next generation of fans about the bouncy bleachers, huddling under the upper bowl during rainy games, and tailgating in Lot 8. Until then, find me when there's real progress on the stadium situation.


16 November 2007


That's right, come out at 9AM tomorrow to Summers for a showing of USA vs. South Africa. We know some bloggers will be there, including Bruce from Du Nord, Brian from "An American's View..." and perhaps some more. There will be a breakfast. It will be hot. It will be indoors, and it will not be chilly. And there will be soccer. This is how your MLS Cup Weekend should start. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible there.

(Yes, focusing on things like this is helping dull the pain of thinking about RFK on Sunday without United).

More details courtesy of Du Nord.

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15 November 2007

Is it Emilio? YES, IT IS

I hate doing link and run posts, but this is intriguing enough to warrant it. Goff says he's heard that your MLS MVP is... Luciano Emilio.

UPDATE: Just got word from some folks we trust, it is Emilio. As in 100% sure. Yes, we're second on this, but at least we can confirm the rumors.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The official announcement is up. Congratulations to Emilio. Now for your next trick, go win us some silverware we can drink beer out of.

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There is Only One Acceptable Outcome: Vote DCenters

The DCenters has been nominated for Best US Soccer Blog over at USSoccer.Com's "Best of 2007" site. Now, I confess that upon looking at the other blogs nominated, I admit that I was impressed merely to be in their company. Du Nord, is there, with Ives, the Goffather, Spangler, Josh, the official Women's and Men's National Team Blog, and the perpetually giving gift of Ray Hudson's worldview at Hudsonia. That's some seriously talented group, and for a time I was "happy just to be nominated." So in celebration a few beverages were consumed, and I slipped into a green-tinged sleep with the taste of liquorice on my mouth.

Suddenly, half aware that I was still in my apartment, I saw Ryan Nelsen standing over me. "Happy to be nominated?" He gave a short laugh that ended in a sneer. "That means you are content to lose. Have we taught you nothing?"

I was taken aback, simply because I thought Nelsen was overseas. "If we were in a competition with Arsenal, ManU, Barca, Madrid, and Celtic, would you be happy we were just playing there?" Nelsen's features warped into those of Tom Soehn. "No, you wouldn't. You, and I, would expect us to go out and win. And if C. Rinaldo flopped to the ground, you'd want Ben to put the boot in and earn the caution." Again, the features of my visitor melted and warped while my legs were held in a strange paralysis, and Ben Olsen now accosted me. "Yeah, you're writing with three other great guys. You have to trust your teammates, and work hard, that's what this league is about." Once more the visitor's features rippled, and Herman Edwards spoke into his headset. "I'm not exactly sure why I'm here, but then again I don't seem to know what I'm doing most days. But still -- I have to ask the question: 'Why do we play?' You should know the answer." Then there was a loud cacophony of noise, as if every tormented keeper who had ever seen a ball move in a way that would make a physicist cry and erase the memory in their T-81 was suddenly stretched on the rack. A bright light filled the air, and an intense heat washed over me. As my eyes adjusted, there, before me, was Marco Etcheverry. He chose not to speak to me in English, but somehow I still understood him. "Do you accept a place among the ranks, or do you wish to lead with honor? These are the lessons. You fight, you spit, you claw, you grab, you push, you run, you scream, you kick, and you do it with style. That is what matters. Do not shame us."

I awoke with a start, and knew that through whatever divine or diabolic provenance had brought me these visions, they were true. It is not enough just to be nominated, I want to win this thing. Yes, the other blogs have great writers -- talented writers. They may have better connections, better access, more reliable news, better site designs, or what have you, but they do not have the indomitable spirit of this blog. And if they are good blogs, as they all are, that just makes the prize more worth winning.

And so I now ask you, readers, to support us. Not merely that, I ask you to go forth and bring us more votes. For this is no longer about voting for this blog. No, I ask for your vote because of what it represents.

The mythology of American Soccer Fandom, indeed, of US Soccer itself, is that of the gritty amateur triumphing against the seasoned experts. It is the story of fans gathering at odd hours to watch games in dark locales, of passion raging white hot against a world that was indifferent at best, and condescending at worst. It is the story of fans who have yelled, cried, celebrated, drank, smoked... and built what we had through our own collaborative efforts. If this blog is anything, it is the same story as yours, as we have nothing but what we ourselves have made. The internet is made for half-baked, incoherent, and pretentious screeds from semi-anonymous individuals. Let us not turn it over to the media machines, but instead let us reward ourselves, the fans. And if you vote for us, in addition to rewarding the many examples of fine writing on this site, then you also vote for yourself.

I also challenge Mr. Ives, or Mr. Goff, or any other writer of a nominated blog to publicly debate me and mine on why their blog should be preferred as the best US Soccer Blog. Will you meet us, or must we proclaim your cowardice?

Ladies and gentlemen, this blog may not win, but if we do not win it will not be for lack of trying. Short of repurposing this site as an RSL blog to take advantage of the various RSL vote-bots our there, we will defend our right to be known as the best US Soccer Blog of 2007. Our pride does not let us shrink from a challenge. Our passion gives us the courage to take on these long odds. And the tradition of the team we dedicated ourselves to demands no less effort from us then we have demanded, and received, from them. No, if we lose it will not match the feeling of loss I felt after Chicago, and a victory would not equal the joy I felt in 2004, but there is silverware to be had. And we shall need you, dear readers. Not just for your vote, but for your support in finding others to vote for us. The major media blogs run hundreds deep, but we believe in that rare power that comes from the madness of crowds. Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you and those you can reach with your voice: Vote for the DCenters.

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14 November 2007

And San Jose Steals...

The 2007 Expansion Draft will occur on November 21st. This is the day many MLS teams graciously give away a player to help those less fortunate teams currently without any. But who will San Jose want? And who will DC United protect? These are the questions that we will attempt to answer today.

Firstly, we have to figure out who DC United will protect. To do this we must figure out what the DC United of 2008 will look like. Some of these questions are as of yet unanswerable. Where will Gomez end up? What is happening with Moreno? Will we sign Juan Sebastian Veron? Will Sohen and Kasper see anybody else the like in the land of steak and tango? It make sense for them to be down there hammering out a deal with Veron before the Expansion Draft because that is going to have big effect on their decisions. There has been a lot of discussion about these questions lately, but the two best pieces we have seen are Goff's roster analysis and UnitedMania's preview of 2008. Both of those links are must reads.

Now that you have read up on where DCU's roster might be next season we have to move on to their Expansion Draft player protection plan. I just made that term up, but I like it. We will run through different scenarios here just get our thoughts out there. Obviously United may not have all the information about who is leaving and staying before the 21st, they might and if they do it changes who they protect. Remember these are just best guesses, while we consider ourselves knowledgeable, there is a reason we are blogging and Payne/Kasper/Soehn are running the show.

If Gomez and Moreno Leave:

Emilio, Fred, Olsen, Simms, Carroll, Burch, Vanney, Boswell, Namoff, McTavish, Perkins

It makes the Expansion Draft easy but next year amazingly hard. Hopefully this won't happen. Moreno becomes a lot more important if Gomez leaves as one of the few players that can currently hold the ball - something I don't think we will be getting from the "super"draft or waiver board, but might with the right designated player. Basically United .07 was a team that was 13 players deep with some role players (Dyachenko, Moose, Mediate) coming in and out of the picture. If United really think Dyachenko was coming on strong at the end of the season the may protect him over Carroll but I seriously doubt it.

If Gomez Leaves:

Moreno, Emilio, Fred, Olsen, Simms, Burch, Vanney, Boswell, Namoff, McTavish, Perkins

Carroll gets dropped because United has the depth at D-Mid to do so (especially if Veron signs) and his salary is very high for a substitute. Some would argue Vanney here and that may happen if United can't re-tool his contract but we need veteran leadership in the back and Vanney brought some of that at the end of the season even if he failed in some other (read aerial) areas. Again this "veteran leadership" United probably will not be able to get from the waivers and definitely won't get from the draft. It might be worth it for United to go out and spend big money on a foreign defender, but that hasn't been the way they have operated in the past. Obviously this one can also be used if just Moreno leaves by swapping Moreno and Gomez.

If Nobody Leaves:

Moreno, Emilio, Gomez, Fred, Olsen, Simms, Burch, Vanney, Namoff, McTavish, Perkins

The question now becomes, Vanney or Boswell? I would lean towards protecting Boswell because of his low salary and potential, but according to Goff United seem to be headed in the opposite direction. Either choice is valid especially after I just waxed on about how hard it is to find veteran leadership in the back. One possible twist is that if the Veron deal goes through before the Expansion Draft United may choose to protect Boswell for salary cap reasons.

And San Jose Steals:

Brian Carroll

There are plenty of better D-Mids in the league but none of them are going to be up in the Expansion Draft. It is a valuable position, but one that an allocation usually isn't used for. That leaves the Expansion Draft and the "Super" Draft for the Earthquakes to find a quality D-Mid. Not too many players are going to be able to jump in to the starting D-Mid spot right from college (the obvious exception being this year's Rookie of the Year). The Earthquakes might take Vanney but I doubt it because he has quite a large salary and there are other decent options out there for defenders. That said if Yallop sees him as Agoos 2.0 he is gone in a flash.

Other Issues:

I still hold out hope for that 2% chance that Gros is just player rope-a-dope for the Expansion Draft and will be back for next year, but unfortunately I think his career is done. This is very sad, especially for somebody like me who could describe his former soccer playing years like a "poor man's Josh Gros."

I would love it if United could work out a trade with San Jose for some of the talent that will be available to them. United basically needs quality 3rd and 4th forwards, a winger sub to replace Josh, and quality center defender if Vanney or Boswell are taken. Houston has a plethora of quality wingers and fourth forwards on some teams would make third forwards on United. The expansion draft deals in role players which is what United needs most right now.

Mr. Lifton over at Booked for Dissent thinks that we should leave Gomez unprotected if MLS rules against a second DP per team. His reasoning is that Donovan will surely be headed to San Jose if this occurs and there is a decent chance United signs Veron and will then run into salary cap issues. Interesting thinking, but I don't think you roll the dice like that, but that's just me.

13 November 2007

Eskandarian back in black?

Josh Gros' retirement may not mean that we won't get to see someone in head gear roaming the RFK field next season. BobbyBoswell.com reports that Alecko Eskandarian has been reacquired by DC United. In his last RSL blog, Alecko had mentioned that he was a free agent an renegotiating his contract.

Alecko was a fan favorite at RFK, and he was quite lethal in 2004. His production last year was terrible, in my opinion he was trying to do too much by himself when he did get the ball. The front office must be gambling that he can still be effective, particularly with Fred,Emilio, and/or Gomez, and/or Moreno around him. He's also a bit of insurance in case Moreno retires or leaves. If this is actually true, I would expect Addlery to be gone soon.


Just joking Kyle. Here is the fabulous funniness for those of you able to view your tubes.

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12 November 2007

Du Nord in Assocation With The DCenters Presents a US Soccer Production: "USA vs. South Africa"

The weekend of MLS Cup promises to be the social soccer event of the year. The Screaming Eagles have a ton of stuff planned, but if you're not heading down to RFK for the 2007 Supporter's Cup, we hope you'll consider hanging with Bruce from Du Nord and some of us out at Summer's, for breakfast and the USA vs. South Africa game. We're not saying it's going to be anyone other than us there (although if you're a player, or fan, or celebrity, or media person, or anyone who's anyone, and given that you read this blog, well, then, you qualify) but it's going to be a fun time with a hot breakfast in the cold DC air.

More details available at Du Nord, and as we hear of people you might want to meet, we'll let you know. I, for one, am excited. So come on out!

UPDATE: We know this guy's going to be there. Why not you?

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Media Diversificaiton

Dan Steinberg once had this idea about the cross pollination between United and Caps fans, and I dig it the concept. Ted Leonsis has even stepped up to offer United ticket holders special discounts to caps game. As a once rabid Caps fan, and now a somewhat tamer and less devoted one, I still have a fondness for the men of the ice. And I'm not the only one. Those of you catching the telecast of the Lightning-Caps game might have noticed that the "Ask Craig Laughlin" segment featured a question from one "Tony Limarzi" about whether one player can bring another player a stick if the latter's was broken in the course of play (short answer: no.) And it was nice to see that Craig and Joe actually recognized the name, and gave Tony his props, though it would have been nice if they had said Tony is the "Voice of D.C. United" or, perhaps more accurately, the "over enunciating and inflective voice of D.C. United." Still, a quiet, nice moment.

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The Post is writing up the most memorable moments of soccer over the past few decades, but I prefer my nostalgia in a targeted, concentrated form. And I think now, a week after elimination, it's time to start writing the first drafts of history. So I offer you the best and worst moments of the 2007 season, starting with...

The Best

#4: 9 August 2007 ESPN pulls out all the stops to cover the debut of Marc Burch on National Television, and their faith is rewarded as he assists on Emilio's goal.
#3: 22 August 2007 Jamie Moreno sets the MLS All time goal scoring record with a penalty, and Christian Gomez has the game winner as United defeats New York 3 to 1.
#2: 5 August 2007 United breaks away from a season of mediocrity with a comprehensive victory over New England, dominating them throughout the game. Josh Gros with a goal that may typify his career, never giving up on a ball that Matt Reis bobbles, and Emilio with a brace.
#1: 10 June 2007 Ben Olsen grabs a hat trick in the process of single handedly demolishing the Red Bulls. Each goal prettier than the one preceding it. I can't recall a regular season game where I left RFK feeling any happier, and if I had one game from 2007 to stick in the DC time capsule, it would be this one.

The Worst

#3: 14 April 2007 United follows up a lackluster opener in Colorado with a 4-2 drubbing at the hands of Kansas City. This seems like a lifetime ago, when people were starting to mumble about firing Tom Soehn and wondering how long this season could get. You can tell it was a long time ago because Eddie Johnson scored a goal.
#2: 3 April 2007 The game that no one would let Troy Perkins forget. A late goal in the rain that slips between Perkins hands is the difference as Guadalajara advances past United in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup.
#1: 1 November 2007 Watching from a bar in Buffalo, United seems to have completed the impossible comeback, only for the series equalizer to be disallowed. Whiplash of emotion is understatement.

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09 November 2007

Soccer as a Neutral - Either Fan or Referee

I wish I could say that DC United's exit from the MLS Cup playoffs made me able to appreciate the game last night more. Instead, from the first time we saw that half of the stadium in New England was empty, all I could think is how much more I would enjoy the game if one of the teams was in black.

So instead I began the time-honored tradition of waiting for moments that would delight me as a DC fan. Every time Mr. White went to the turf and Kevin Stott waved play on was a joy. I enjoyed the 60th minute collision between Matt Reis and Paulo Wanchope, and only wished that Paulo had led with his knee -- you know, "to protect himself" from Reis. I enjoyed hearing Eric Wynalds offer a "tut tut" for each Chris Armas or CJ Brown tackle. And I even enjoyed the goal. And, hell, the game calling on ESPN was actually half-way decent.

That being said, there is one thing that Wynalda says that consistently annoys me, and it annoys me because I feel so many of my fellow fans feel the same way. When talking about how many New England players, including Shalrie Joseph had cards coming into this game, Wynalda and company seemed to agree that Kevin Stott had to be careful about giving another card. Similarly, on Twellman's goal, it was a dangerous play. His foot nearly took out Robinson's jaw. Just because it was tremendously athletic (it was) and dramatic (certainly) and fun to watch (of course) doesn't mean it wasn't dangerous. That's the point of having a rule. If a play is dangerous, you don't let it go simply because it makes the game more interesting. They are the laws of the game, not the well-meaning suggestions for the game. From Law 12 (emphasis added):

Playing in a dangerous manner is defined as any action that, while trying
to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player himself). It is committed with an opponent nearby and prevents the opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury. The action becomes an offence only when an opponent is adversely affected.

A scissors or bicycle kick is permissible provided that, in the opinion of the referee, it is not dangerous to an opponent.

Playing in a dangerous manner involves no physical contact between the players.
Given that in real time you could see Robinson pull out of the challenge when he saw a foot flying at his face, I find it hard to believe that this shouldn't have been called.

Which gets to another issue. You will hear commenters and fans in all sports say about referees "you simply can't make a call at that point in the game." There's some belief that the laws and rules of a match should become flexible depending on how important a given moment in time is, and only the most flagrant fouls should be called. That's ridiculous. A referee should always use their best judgement as to whether a foul occurred, no matter at what point the game is at. To change the standards of a foul later in the game is to give an unfair advantage to questionable tactics at the end of the game. As much as the goal called back against Christian Gomez hurt me, it was the correct call according to the rules. The fact that it was a vital moment for DC at the end of the game does not change what the laws are, nor should it affect the referee's judgement. I applaud the referee for making what he knew was a tough call in a hostile atmosphere because he knew it was the right call to make. I wish Kevin Stott had done the same, even though it would have deprived the game of a great highlight.

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08 November 2007

Please Stand By...

If you have not made plans for the morning of September November 17th, hold off a bit longer. We may have a suggestion...

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A Man of His Word

Normally I leap at the chance to self-promote, but while I was on the road I nearly let this one slip by. Mr. Fish, of the Kin of Fish, has paid his dues to this blog of ours. Even with the silly pose, he looks classier than most of those around him. Mr. Fish, I salute you. And if nothing else, at least this D.C. United season made one Red Bull fan a bit less foolish looking for a few hours.

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07 November 2007

A Tribute to Josh Gros

The news of Josh Gros considering retirement is melancholy in the extreme. I think everyone would respect his decision, no matter what, is a given. I would be happy to see him back, but he must put his health first and foremost. Josh Gros played a hard game that relied on physical conditioning and tenacity, and an injury that forces him to play carefully pretty much robs him of whatever advantage he has. He was a player that played with heart and determination, and that wins support even while we bemoaned his inability to make a cross even if he played solitaire tic-tac-toe.

Role players don't often get tribute matches, but for Josh Gros I would make an exception. Ang given that tribute matches are gimmicky affairs, I think we should have the ultimate gimmick tribute match for Josh. Stage it in Camp Lejune (in honor of Josh's Marine Corps heritage, and to take advantage of their amounts of space), and mark our a special pitch that's 20 yards wide and 200 yards long. Find some out of shape pub team for the opposition, and have Piotr Nowak yell at them the entire game to run up and down the field more. Forbid all aerial balls. Then let Josh loose. He would dominate.


06 November 2007

A District Gentleman's Primer for Etiquette through the MLS Cup

With D.C. United eliminated, the uncomfortable specter of seeing an MLS Cup played in RFK without our team present is now an inevitability. While such situations may be socially awkward, it is not a scenario that people of good breeding should find insurmountable. Indeed, with tact and aplomb, we can still represent the finest traditions of D.C. United fandom even without D.C. United being around. First, some simple guidelines.

To Thine Own-self Be True: A gentleman will not find some sad, pale proxy of devotion for the remainder of these events. There is no call to adopt from phantom necessity another team to support. Your colors, as befits a gentleman, remain black. Eschew orange, sky blue, navy and red, or red and white. Black is a testament not only to your devotion to United, but also serve as a sober expression of mourning. Such things are appropriate. To root for any other team is to fling oneself at a brightly colored trollop, and is unbecoming for a true United fan. If one has family or close friends from Kansas City, Houston, Boston, or Chicago, then simple and reserved expressions of support are sufficient. However, as we are assuming a certain degree of class and taste, I find it unlikely that any of you have such poor associates.

The Play's The Thing: We shall not allow ourselves to be blinded by our own petty prejudices. While Matt Reis is still a gutter class thug, and Mr. White too frequently takes to the pitch suffering from the vapors, gentlemen of taste and discretion can still appreciate the moments of ingenuity these men can produce. As Petrarch once noted in De Vita Solitaria, "anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side." We will offer polite appreciation for the rare moments of class that we see displayed in future events.

The Cat Will Mew, the Dog Will Have His Day: If, after reading this most sage advice, the reader still finds the need the harbor fortune for one of the remaining teams, then I submit to you that your choices belong to either Kansas City or New England. In such cases, one can choose a higher motivation than simply "liking" (what a coarse word!) one of the other teams. Indeed, if it were simple on such a basis then I would no doubt clothe myself in a ten gallon hat and fake red mustache with a Holland jersey. However, Houston is not to be wished for, as it would be unfaithful to United's legacy as only repeating champions. No, if one must adopt a team, then Kansas City may be safely chosen, as your support for Kansas City can be represented as a statement of political convenience, a way of renouncing the silly rules that sent the worst seed to play in an easier conference. Given that Kansas City is likely to be playing the role of Carlos Ruiz's head to the Ricardo Clarks of the world, then one may also support New England. Their consistent appearances in the Eastern Conference final without fully realizing their ambitions have become tedious, and such gluttony can not be abided for long. Let them win the cup this year, and then cry "Enough!"

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01 November 2007

Last Impressions - DC United 2 : 2 Chicago

DC United eliminated from MLS Cup Playoffs on Aggregate, 3-2


It was the slogan of the season, backed up on the web banner by more silver than you see in the teeth of your average Crunk performer, a tally we added to this season. It was a promise, but it was also the biting fear entering this match against Chicago, a team we've never beaten in the playoffs, a team that we've never scored upon in the playoffs, a team that dealt us one of the most humiliating defeats we've ever suffered in 2005.

I have been outside of the DC area for the last three weeks, my life turned into a series of hotel rooms, tense business meetings, and mediocre food. However, I made sure to pack a United jersey for each match, and to wear it proudly on gameday. For the first two weeks, it has not been much fun. I watched the loss to Columbus, the loss to Chicago on the road, and now tonight. Accompanied by someone who didn't understand the game, we watched the game, and with United down two goals early I envied my compatriot's naivete. "They can still come back," I was told. "So, what's this off-side thing again?"

Only, tradition is not merely about trophies (though that's a lot of it) or is it about match results. It is about watching a team I care about, and watching a team repay me with their effort on the pitch. For all the under-10 youth league soccer cliches, sometimes heart can be more rewarding than results, and for me personally this was one of those games. Even as Eric Wynalda was discussing the similarities to 2005 while the sound of the Sabers game on the TV next to us in the bar threatened to drown him out, United rallied and went down fighting. When I thought Gomez had collected our third goal, I screamed aloud, jumping up and down, only to collapse when the goal was (correctly) called back. But they kept at it, even with the disappointment.

Can I complain about the first half? Of course. Can I complain about us losing because of a misstep on the road? Yes, absolutely... But I won't. Instead, this is more personal. My ultimate complaint is that I was in Buffalo, New York on the final game of DC United's season, and I didn't say good-bye in person. For this team honored our tradition, fought valiantly, and I shall miss them. This off-season will likely see at least one of those players I saw not step onto the field again. I didn't know I wouldn't see Esky again before he was gone. Who knows how it will be this off-season? And I wish I could have had a chance to say good-bye myself.

Ironically, I return home to DC tomorrow. And while I will be glad to get off the road, I won't truly be home again until April. Good-bye to the 2007 D.C. United. Your work this season was honorable, and I was proud of you to the final minutes. I will miss you, even as I watch the MLS Cup in RFK.