You could hardly expect DC United to stand pat on the transfer front after the abomination of the season they just suffered through. But the roster surgery looks to be even more extensive than one might originally have expected. In the wake of the deal that sent Perkins to Portland, Goff is reporting that Simms and Pontius may be on the trading block as well. With this much roster flux, it’s hard not to think back to the disastrous results the last time the FO made such drastic changes: the Great Sudamericano Invasion of 2008.
But that strategy was founded on bringing in a cadre of foreign veterans. The current tactic seems to be all about the youth movement. The obvious upshot of trading Perkins for Cronin plus cash is clearing cap space and padding the allocation piggy bank. But reading between the lines it reads as, “the future is now for Bill Hamid.” I think the club expects Hamid to be the starter or to rotate minutes with another keeper at the very least. Perkins simply makes too much to be part of either scenario. Cronin will push Hamid and may even claim the starting spot in patches, but I think Hamid has the edge in that race (I thought Cronin was decent in his loan spell with us, but not terrific), whereas I’d have given a settled, confident Perkins the edge going into 2011.
So what about those Simms rumors? He’s had injury troubles of late, but has always been a consistent performer in the middle of the park and is always on the leader board in minutes played. I’ve never been a huge advocate for Simms, consistently identifying his spot as one that could be upgraded with a more aggressive tackler and/or more forward-thinking passer with huge dividends for either defense or attack (or both if such a player were more common in MLS). Surely the club doesn’t expect Morsink to be a replacement, much less an upgrade.
There might be an argument that Olsen envisages McCarty in such a role, but I think that puts the shackles on the box-to-box-capable McCarty contributing to the attack, particularly if he’s covering for Boskovic as the other central midfielder. So who does that leave? I wonder how much trust is being placed in young Conor Shanosky to pick up significant minutes. Given the play of Hamid and, more impressively, Najar in their first seasons out of the academy, you wonder if a similar contribution has become the expectation rather than just a hope. Likewise for the signing of Ethan White, another academy product.
Does somebody in the FO have delusions of a grand Arsenal-ization scheme?
(Delusions? Kevin Payne? Really?) Visions of local academy boys, schooled in the tradition and “style” of DC United, forming the backbone of the club for years to come? (Connected to tradition? Keeping it local? It’s like KP’s at the whiteboard, frothing at the mouth as he underlines his buzz words while a chastised Kasper sits weeping amidst a pile of printed-out USL rosters and VHS tapes with obscure foreign names scrawled on masking-tape labels.)
Color me hopeful but skeptical. As attractive as I would find a move towards creating an efficient pipeline from academy to senior squad with club-raised talent forming a consistent, solid core of the team (it’s what I always aspire to in long-term CM/FM games), Arsenal doesn’t seem the right analogy here. We wouldn’t be robbing foreign cradles and consistently giving youth its head, we’d be relying on the already-stocked local pools. In that respect, the more obvious capital connection would be another United: West Ham, with their prolific academy and historical commitment to playing attractive soccer.
And dear god if that isn’t an analogy to strike fear in the hearts of United fans. Rock bottom of the top flight, stadium plans up in the air. All we’re missing is Chang’s search for ownership help ending with a couple of porn barons signing on.
That and selling off our best academy-raised talent to bring in a mixed bag of bargain and expensive foreign talent that never seems to click together properly.
Oh, hello there, Square One. Nice to be back in the old digs.
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As a final thought here…Remember when we were lauding the Pontius/Wallace/Kocic/Barklage draft as the FO finally, finally paying attention to the draft and college ranks as a viable method of building the team? With Kocic long gone, Barklage moving that way, Wallace traded away, Pontius supposedly on the block, and trading away last year's first round pick, it seems such a long time ago. Still, this latest trend is a consistent move in that direction, albeit more oriented to academy than college, an obvious adaptation in light of MLS's new home grown player rules. Given the local youth talent to be exploited and that we're never going to be the biggest, marquee market destination in MLS, I think the FO's taking the right approach. But can they execute?