Hammer Time

Well, well, well.

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?


  1. Great post. If there's a pattern to be read between signing White, trading Perkins, and the Simms and Pontius trade rumors, it's got to be the pattern given above: local youth in the academy are becoming a priority in DCU player recruitment, followed by domestic youth in the college system. The FO seems to be reconsidering its aggressive pursuit of foreign veterans.

  2. There's nothing wrong with foreign veterans. You just have to choose healthy, effective ones. We don't. This is commentary on United's judgement, not on which is the best strategy.

    They'd be stupid to lose either Simms or Pontius. Simms might not be a great player, but he's a solid professional, and we need to keep those around. Pontius is doubly dumb as a transfer, if we can't find a way to use him, we don't deserve to be a franchise. What the hell is happening to this club?

  3. Monsieur Anonymous said..." if we can't find a way to use him, we don't deserve to be a franchise"

    Really? Hyperbolize much? The game's history is littered with players, often great ones, who just didn't fit with a club, a system, or a manager. And call me pedantic (go on, do it), but isn't trading for somebody who might be a better fit a "way to use him"?

    Keep in mind that I say this as somebody who has no faith in the FO's ability to judge and acquire talent (Kasper in particular), has little hope for United's immediate future (i.e. I sympathize with your plaint), and thinks Pontius should be part of the core we're building around. I'm just trying to keep things relatively rational in the face of the Internet Anonymity Plague.

  4. Well, my name is Will. And I don't think it is hyperbole. If we are so stupid as to trade diverse talent like Pontius who has shown glimpses of brilliance, then I'm absolutely certain this club is beyond repair. He's more effective than Quaranta or Boskovic, and he's much younger. What's more, his presence in the lineup represents the willingness to track back on defense.

    In short, in our current situation, Pontius to my mind is the straw that breaks the cammel's back. If DC is making plans that include Boskovic as our DP (for christ sake), Wolff as one of our veteran forwards, and still can't figure out the stadium mess, then trade our one player who is eyed for national team camps, this team has no sense and is simply going through the motions.

  5. To be honest Pontius isn't a high caliber player! I remember seeing him miss more goals then actually making them! To me trading Pontius can b a good thing, if they get some1 better to replace him! DC has the tendency of letting ok players go and getting really horrible ones...e.i. the past 3yrs say it all! Honestly the DC as of late would be in the 2nd division if MLS had a promo/dele! Lets face it DC is a 3rd rate team, with a out of date FO!!! 4 real what happen to this franchise? Use to b so proud of this team but the people running it must b high if they think this team is or was the DC of the 90's!!!

  6. Hi Will.

    I still think it is. Pontius is a promising player, but I don't think he's untouchable. I wouldn't trade him lightly, but if the right offer came along, I'd consider it. Much like I would for pretty much every player on this team outside of Najar.

    I'd also be hesitant to write off Boskovic just yet. He was still playing at a very high level for his country while struggling to figure out MLS. He might not pan out here, but in the right context, he's an excellent player of higher quality than Pontius might ever be. Would we then not "deserve to be a franchise" if we "can't find a way to use him"?

    And if you're going to use national team camps as a measuring stick, didn't we just acquire a guy who's been getting more invites from Bob than Pontius?

  7. Fair points, but I would rather find a way to use Pontius than Boskovic. At least Chris provided decent performance when healthy. Boskovic showed he had some skill, but NO defensive ability and absolutely pitiful stats to boot.

    If Boskovic plays like he should, it means he's earning his salary. But if we send off Pontius to, say Chivas USA, and he becomes a major factor, it just will highlight that DC is a poisoned environment. This is

  8. Different strokes for different folks, though I think you're going overboard with the relative defensive merits of Pontius and Boskovic (and the importance of such merits). Likewise with the "poisoned environment" bit. Just because a player succeeds at another club proves nothing in isolation. What if the player(s) or pick(s) traded for ended up bringing more to the table?

    We shall see. I'm not optimistic about 2011, but then I'm rarely optimistic about anything. I just appreciate a subtle palette of grays more than black and white.

  9. Way too soon to write off Boskovic. Its never been easy to join a club mid-season and adjust immediately. Give him a full offseason and training camp in D.C. before you judge him. I think he's going to be in for a big impactful year.

    FB- Love the Kasper description. I can picture that perfectly.