More a Colonel Than a General?

First the good.

In acquiring Danny Cruz, United looks to have settled the flank depth question, initially addressed by the drafting of Nick DeLeon as Pontius' backup. A regular starter for the MLS Cup finalists from Houston, Cruz provides excellent cover for Najar, who will likely be away for Olympic and possibly World Cup duty with Honduras and may even attract interest from abroad this summer. Though he's more an athlete than a soccer player, Cruz brings energy and aggressiveness that I can see Olsen valuing and certainly has enough quality to hold his own in MLS. He's also not likely breaking the bank.
But when Dave Kasper says (via previously linked article)...
At 22, he has enormous upside and we look forward to his contributions for years to come.
...I'm a little nonplussed. Of course, Kasper has to say this kind of thing; it's the expected corporate, "go team!" line. But the problem is that -- given his track record -- I think he might actually believe it. If Cruz really had "enormous upside," can you see somebody as shrewd as Dom Kinnear letting him go easily?

Reading between the lines, it looks to me like Kinnear and Houston have seen what Cruz can bring to the table in the last few years, and they think they can do better with allocation money than they can with Cruz in the fold (hell, he wasn't even listed on the Houston roster before United traded for his rights, which says volumes). It also speaks to the general level of ambition currently being demonstrated across the league -- a level of ambition that United seems to lack.

True, given United's recent history of foreign signings, stocking the roster with proven league veterans may prove a better route to short-term success for this FO. And, like I said, I'm generally positive on this move, even if it seems a little like trading one fully-committed wide midfielder who never lived up to his youth national team career potential (Quaranta) for a younger model (Cruz). Potentially (donning the rose-colored specs for a moment), you might even have a situation similar to Oduro, deemed a One Trick Speed Pony (I claim dibs on band-naming rights!) and surplus to requirements in Houston but emerging as one of the league's more potent attackers once shipped to Chicago last year.

The question now becomes: after shipping allocation dough to the Dynamo for Cruz, how much cash does United have left to splash on a striker and a real solution at left back? If Santos and Woolard are expected to fill those holes, I sense a year largely in the mold of last season's campaign, lurking around the edges of the playoff pie.

That said, those holes are really -- outside of perhaps a third veteran center back option -- the only glaring weaknesses I can see. Might Olsen be chewing on a cigar in the bowels of a crumbling RFK, rubbing his hands together in a cloud of smoke and saying...

I love it when a plan comes together.

Roster Reset #4 is on the way shortly...

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