But now it's my turn. In no particular order, I want...
- A new stadium: It was refreshing to see that the other list-makers placed a similar value on a new stadium, though I think its importance may be underestimated. Not only has the continued failure on the stadium front led to dispondent pessimism on the part of the supporters, but I think it's also seriously affecting the mojo of the organization as a whole. This is a club that is used to winning, and the successive setbacks when the opportunity for success seemed to be just around the bend seem to have spread throughout the club. Is it just me, or does there seem to be both a creeping sense of nostalgia for a golden age that has passed and a tendency towards settling for mediocrity? Likewise, the lurking threat of the club being moved has to be deeply upsetting for a club that prides itself on tradition and connection both to its supporters and to the community.
- Coherent team play, both in attack and defense: Too often over the last couple of seasons, the United defense has been prone to silly errors, a lack of communication, and a surprising vulnerability to counterattacks and direct play. Some of the blame will fall at the feet of individual defenders and goalkeepers, but it should be apportioned. Our attackers often haven't applied pressure to opponents on the ball, allowing them time and space to pick out passes. Likewise, our midfield was often too slow or too poorly positioned to cut out attacking play. On the other side of the ball, I had huge frustrations with our lack of off the ball movement, balls played quickly into space, and the expectation placed on individuals that they would simply beat a defender or hit a pass that would magically split defenses to somehow set up immobile teammates. This often translated into slow and pointless offensive play.
- A quality goalkeeper: Yes, we are carrying three goalkeepers at the moment, but do you trust any of them as the long-term starter right now? Hamid, for all of his promise, is still a teenager. Kocic never showed the confidence or decision-making ability that would allow me to trust him. And while Wicks showed admirable confidence and a willingness to take command of his defense, my abiding memories of his 2009 are misjudgements, blank stares after one-on-ones were slotted past his hulking, statue-like form, and losing the plot mentally, be it the infamous stamp on Montero, screaming at defenders, or mindlessly charging out for balls that were never there to be won.
- A coach who can read the game & take advantage strengths and weaknesses: Though he often prepared the team well for a match, Soehn had a disturbing inability to react to changes in the match, most often highlighted when a tactical shift by the opposition at the half created problems that Soehn could not adjust to. Indeed, he rarely seemed able to make changes during the match that forced the opponent to make their own adjustments. This led to a frustrating number of ties when the team had been in a winning position. It also probably had something to do with his increasing tendency to sit on one-goal leads and/or make pre-halftime substitutions, a desperate move by any measure and particularly indicative of a coach that sees no way to make a change beyond swapping the actual players at his disposal.
- A defensive organizer: Jakovic and, to a lesser extent, James are both promising young central defenders. Though Jakovic brings polish to James' bruising athleticism, both are the types of defenders you would want to pair with a deeper-lying defensive leader. Though I could see having a better keeper provide some of this quality, my preference would be to bring in a savvy veteran to pair with Jakovic, providing cover not only for Jakovic's libero tendencies and ability to anticipate direct balls from the opposition, but also for either the inexperienced (and attacking) Wallace or the substandard Burch at left back. Where does this leave James? As much-needed cover for now. Ideally, I'd see Jakovic using his ball-skills and reading of the game to develop into a sweeper-libero, but I suspect that requires a more experienced cast, comfortable in their roles and with each other, to be manning the defense along with him.
Too many questions, and not enough wishes. But such is the nature of all but the most elite of clubs, particularly under the oppressive thumb of MLS parity.