08 May 2008

Tonight's Forecast: "Tears Shall Drown the Wind"

A few scattershot links before I reach my main point. First, it's going to rain tonight. We play better in the rain, except for those times we don't.

Second, Commenter Bootsy sent us this link to Charles Boehm's blog, in which there might be some dissatisfaction expressed by the Ownership at the state of things:

Principal owner-investor Victor MacFarlane was on hand at the announcement of the VW partnership at RFK Stadium on Tuesday morning, and his enthusiasm about the deal was tempered by noticeable dissatisfaction with his team’s performances.

“I’m not happy. We need to do much better on the field,” said the San Francisco-based real estate magnate. “The team needs to come together – we have the talent necessary, the team needs to gel and start delivering.”

And also a link to Booked for Dissent, where another critique of Tom Soehn is made (and made very well) but also contains an coda with which I am in complete disagreement:

But for all that, those of you calling for Soehn to be fired immediately should stop it. This is an organization that has never technically fired a coach (Rongen’s contract wasn’t renewed, and Hudson’s third-year option wasn’t picked up). And for all the talk at the United-Volkswagen press conference today about the importance both “brands” place on “tradition,” I don’t see them breaking away from any of that in the near future.

First, let me say that while I agree with pretty much everything else that Dave wrote, I am in utter disagreement with the ideas in his last sentences, so unfairly that's the only part I quoted. If you listen to the VW press conference (which Lifton nicely has put on-line for you, and I did listen to) he's right that a lot of talk about "brands" and "management" was invoked. However, more important to me was the statement, once again, that D.C. United's mission is "to win championships and serve the community." That's our tradition. We didn't put up a banner on DCUnited.Com with the word "tradition" next to a picture of Ray Hudson not getting a pink slip. We put that word surrounded by a bunch of trophies. Our tradition is about winning and community involvement, not some management practice. If it looks like 2008 is a lost season because of Tom Soehn, I don't see United's ownership just letting it happen simply because they never fired a coach before.

Now, that being said, I'm not calling on Tom Soehn to be fired. Yet. But I can see a time where it might have to happen, and I'd prefer it happen earlier in the season than later. And yes, I have a name in mind for at least a caretaker coach who could earn the job (and no, it's not Bruce Arena, but I've had this idea and talked it out with someone, and at least they didn't think I was crazy, even though I thought I might be. And no, I'm not telling you yet, because right now is not the time, but it's someone you know.) Still, if United underperforms tonight against Chicago, and in a week and a half against Chivas, could I see myself finally succumbing to the Fire Soehn commentary? Yes. It would require two dismal performances, but I'll be honest, it's something I've thought about.

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly. A new coach would need to have some time to impose their ideas to turn the team around. A new coach might deserve some time to make a move before any transfer deadlines. And most of all, losing is a habit that gets harder to break.

So if we haven't fired Tom Soehn by Match 14, and the season is gloomy, then let's write the season off and move forward. But if it might make a difference, let's do it sooner rather than later.

UPDATE-3PM: Lifton responds to the post above that, as he says, "ripps him a new one" (the extra "p" means there was more power in the ripping). He says that our post...

...overlooks a major aspect of why United has a tradition, the way Kevin Payne does business. He is far too loyal to discard a coach so quickly (does 2001 ring a bell?), and would undoubtedly go to the wall for Soehn. I don’t see that changing so quickly.

I don’t know the terms of Soehn’s contract, but my guess is that it’s for two years with an option. That seems to be the standard. By virtue of his record last year, as well as his success as an assistant here, Soehn deserves to at least finish out this year before a decision on the option year is made.

I'm sympathetic to half of this argument. I do believe that Soehn has earned some margin of error. I believe that everyone can earn a bad season. The problem was the way this season has been positioned - as a year to really take on the international responsiblities. Failing to retake the Supporter's Shield doesn't bother me much. Failing to be competitive in our league matches while waiting for our next shot at international play? That does bother me. That being said, if United executives come out and say "Tommy's earned this for the remainder of the year" -- well, I could live with that.

However, the other part of Lifton's argument doesn't hold water for me. Loyalty is a fine thing, a noble thing, but loyalty that leads to disaster is not a virtue, it is pigheadedness. It is a form of willful stupidity. Kevin Payne is not a stupid man. He makes mistakes, but he learns from them.

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At 08 May, 2008 10:30, Anonymous I-66 said...

I was positive you were going to write something about this Luciano Emilio DP deal.

You're right about Soehn. Just because United never have fired a coach doesn't mean we can't now. I'm also not calling for his head yet, but there may soon be a time when I think it's necessary.

With the beating of our drums, something wicked this way comes...

At 08 May, 2008 10:32, Anonymous DCUinCT said...

Wow. 80% of the season still to go, probably 2/3rds if they make a change soon, as well as 3 to 4 (champion's league group play) cups to play for. I truely doubt that we'd be writing the season off even if Soehn stays around. It's not every year that we'll have this many options, so one way or another DC will be expected to be competative for one or more of these trophies.

At 08 May, 2008 10:56, Anonymous bdr said...

Great, Victor Steinbrenner.

D, find me at half-time at Heineken/Dos XX stand and I'll buy you one.

At 08 May, 2008 11:06, Blogger Will said...

Ben Olsen, Marco Etcheverry, or Rongen.

This is precisely the kind of team rongen could do well with.

But seriously, I know it's early, but if we're 2-6 with a dp and last year's MVP, he's fired, he has to be.

At 08 May, 2008 11:38, Blogger D said...

I-66: I love that. That's... awesome.

BDR: Not at the game tonight. Sadly, I have other commitments.

Will: Exactly 66.6666...7% of those names fall into what I am thinking.

At 08 May, 2008 13:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Jason Kreis can become a head coach I think Ben Olsen could too. But would he be better served to assist first?

At 08 May, 2008 13:31, Anonymous Bootsy said...

Like I said on BS, replacing a coach in mid-season is scary. While some teams react well to the change and immediately improve, more often the immediate effect is negative for one of two reasons:

1. the new coach sucks, or
2. the new coach doesn't suck, but it's going to take time for that new coach to make positive changes and get past any *transitional* period of ineffectual play.

So I hope it isn't necessary to go there. But if it's clearly necessary, I agree you do it sooner rather than later.

And if we fail? We fail. But screw your courage to the sticking place, and we'll not fail.

At 08 May, 2008 14:21, Anonymous Dave Lifton said...

Right back at'cha, pal...


At 08 May, 2008 15:25, Blogger D said...

Bootsy: I agree with you 100%. I do not want to have to change coaches. And it's a risky move, essentially doubling down on some moves made earlier this season. Bruce Boudreau is not the norm.

But like you, if we keep looking bad, I'd prefer we take the risk.

At 08 May, 2008 15:40, Blogger JCM said...

I immediately thought of Ben Olsen when you teased your coaching thoughts. He certainly could do it, but is he ready to hang up the cleats like Kreis did? Or could he pull off the player/coach title like Bill Russell and Pete Rose did? If I ran the world, I'd give it a shot once I decided to be rid of Soehn. Sadly, the world hasn't seen fit to hire me.

At 09 May, 2008 09:01, Anonymous dcuniter14 said...

I am a little bit further down the "we need a new coach" path than most of the people here. I know it is relatively early in the season, but the first third is rapidly coming to a conclusion. So far it is not looking like Soehn is doing what needs to be done to "right the ship". It seems to me, that most of his post-loss comments are of the "the players didn't execute" variety. Perhaps he does not have the "team" to execute the tactics he is trying to employ. What I would like to see is a focus on shoring up the defense, get some points with nil-nil draws, if need be, and build from there. Right now this team reminds me of the early decade United which had a lot of possession, could not breakdown opposing defenses, and got beat with counter-attacks by younger faster teams. They used to let United wear themselves down, and then pounced. Just some thoughts from a long-time frustrated fan.

At 09 May, 2008 10:04, Anonymous Dave Lifton said...

After talking to Payne after the game last night, all bets are off. I still tend to blame Kasper more than Soehn, though. New post up at BFD, btw.

At 10 May, 2008 16:12, Blogger Sierra said...

I would love to see Ben Olsen coach, but I don't know if the Kreis path is the best. Ben's development as a coach should be that: a development. As good a job as Kreis has done, he has hindered as well as helped. Some time as an assistant could have helped ease that transition for him (this is me eating my words, because I was all for the risky move at the time).
It should also be noted that DC isn't RSL, and frankly the risk for RSL was much less than DC--they had nothing to lose.

Anyway, DC still has a lot to play for this season, and trying to right the ship by bringing in an inexperienced coach doesn't seem like the answer.


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