Is it time to blow up DC United?

dc united emilioAfter DC United’s loss to lowly San Jose at home the question has to be asked: is it time to blow up this team?

Yes DC are still in the playoff chase and they are still kicking in the Concacaf champions league, but their chances are looking slim. If DC fail to make the playoffs it would be two years in a row that they missed the cut. Despite wining the supporters shield in 2007 in his first year as coach, Tommy Soehn has to be considered on the hot seat. DC simply have not looked that good the last couple of years. They have lacked any real consistency and any real attacking venom. Much of this has to do with the aging nature of the core of their squad. DC has six core players, starters, that will be over 30 next season.

1. Emilio, age 31 (age at start of next season) 720,000- 759,000 – Just not hitting the back of the net as he was a couple years ago. Doesn’t scare defenders as he once did.
2. Fred, – $225,000-257,000, 30 – Is lacking the threat that he had when he first came into the league.
3. Christian Gomez – $385,000 – 430,000, age 35 – I think he has played well this season, but how much more does he have left?
4. Moreno – $250,000, age 36 – Crafty, but injury prone and has become increasingly static on the field.
5. Olsen – $225,000, age 32 – still has grit but is clearly on the decline
6. Bryan Namoff, $105,000, age 30 – solid defender.

That is about 2 million devoted to six players over 30. The salary cap for an MLS team was about 2.3 million. Now Emilio was considered a designated player, meaning just 400,000 counts against the salary cap and not all of Gomez’s salary was against the cap and there are all sorts of gimmicks to open up more cap space, but the basic fact is that DC has a hell of a lot of money tied up in aging players.

What will DC do? The ins and outs of MLS contracts are a bit beyond me, but it seems the key to United’s off-season is Emilio. Do they shop him? Renegotiate his salary? Or make him the man again? If they want a new DP they will have to change Emilio’s contract. It will also be interesting to see if there are any retirements (Moreno, Gomez, Olsen?) or attempts to renegotiate salaries downward. None of the above mentioned players are bad. It is just that with such a small squad, with so many games, in such a physically demanding league it just doesn’t make sense to have a roster of aging and expensive injury-prone players. I would also expect some potential trades – such as Emilio (he has a green card now meaning he doesn’t count as a foreign player).

United has a solid cadre of young solid players that they can now build around in Clyde Simms, Chris Pontius, Rodney Wallace, Santino Quaranta, and perhaps Danny Szetela. Simms and Szetela (if he can get on the field) would seem to be a promising central midfield, with Olsen in reserve. Pontius, Wallace and Quaranta are three solid attacking players that can all play wide. If they add a new designated player and a few productive draftees and a couple experienced veterans this will be a very solid squad. But they definitely can’t stay the course if they expect on making the playoffs next year.

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