Adam go at it as we exchange questions and answers about the teams that we respectively cover. After a huge win against Sporting Kansas City , the Montreal Impact travel D.C to face a horrible D.C. United team but Marco Schallibaum is not looking to take anyone for granted.
You can read my humbles answers to his questions right here.
We also ask Adam about the future plans of the club as per the transfer market, the 2014 MLS Draft and the impact of the new announced stadium on the soccer culture around the club.
1. So I predicted the Montreal Impact to finish 4th or 5th in the East assuming the club stays healthy. That prediction included D.C. United being in the top 3-4 of the Eastern Conference.
Please, please tell me that I was not crazy to think so? Tell me that you did not predict the Black & Red be so bad this year?
Well, recent events would indicate that you're crazy. But also that I and many other MLS pundit-types (is that what we are?) are similarly afflicted. I'd say a majority of people who watched last season closely expected United to contend for the Eastern Conference crown this year, what with attacking talent like MLS Best XI Chris Pontius, a healthy Dwayne De Rosario and a Nick DeLeon with a year of experience under his belt.
Not to mention the stellar defensive partnership of Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald in front of beastly Bill Hamid, all screened by a rapidly maturing Perry Kitchen. Hell, even Chris Korb was getting plaudits for his play at fullback. But virtually every one of those players regressed - some of them dramatically - from last season, and the departures of Andy Najar, Branko Boskovic, Hamdi Salihi and Emiliano Dudar were not adequately replaced.
Throw in some injuries and a tough schedule (that approached impossibility once the team's confidence was shot), and you have yourself a major league fall from grace that very few saw coming.
2. Soccer Culture or Culture Foot like we like to say in French. With D.C. United just announcing a new soccer-specific stadium, is this taking the club to another level financially? on the pitch? How is this transforming, changing the soccer culture in D.C and Virginia?
Financially? Absolutely, this is a game changer. The team is among the biggest money losers in MLS when they play at RFK, which has no luxury boxes and provides the team no revenue from concessions or parking (all of that is claimed by the city). Add in the rent the team has to pay for each event, and it's simply not sustainable. The new stadium will beat the situation at RFK in every one of those categories (not to mention fan experience and the buzz factor we've seen in other places like Kansas City).
On the field, there's a line of thought - and it makes a lot of sense - that the new digs will make it easier for United to attract top line talent that is simply not within reach at the lovely ol' dump that is RFK. Listen to Claudio Bieler talk about the facilities at Sporting Park or Tim Cahill on Red Bull Arena or Diego Valeri on Jeld-Wen Field, and you get the impression that the first rate, brand new facilities made their decision to sign with MLS a lot easier; the same could be true for the future of D.C. United.
As for soccer culture in the D.C. region (and don't forget Maryland in there!), I think the aforementioned buzz could help make soccer - which is already pretty relevant in the area - even bigger. A state-of-the-art building can do wonders for public perception, and the possibility of moving the NWSL Washington Spirit into the city (they currently play way out in the suburbs) and of seeing a greater number of U.S. national team games will boost things, too.
One potential enforced change from the current culture, though, has to do with parking: RFK stadium has lots of it, and eventually, the new stadium won't. This is going to push supporters to find a new way to tailgate before games, whether it be in public plazas or in the bars and restaurants that many of us hope will populate the area in and around Buzzard Point. It's a trade-off I have no problem accepting, though.
3. Ben Olsen still looks he can still play the game. Was he named head coach too soon in his career? With recent trades and roster changes, is D.C. United going for the 2014 MLS Draft top pick while looking for an actual effective D.P (Rafa-who?)
I thought Ben Olsen was the right guy for the job at the time, and I still do. The club was in total crisis during Curt Onalfo's short time at the helm, and turning to somebody who understood the club and its history and its supporters was something that needed to happen.
To their credit, the front office has stood by that decision, even through this woeful year, saying that Olsen will have the time he needs to develop as a coach. Of course, that wasn't the plan at first: When Olsen retired as a player, he was named to the staff as an assistant coach, a position it was thought he would occupy for some years as he learned the craft. Onalfo's incompetence accelerated the process considerably, pushing Olsen into the head coaching ranks much earlier than anybody had planned or hoped.
At this point, he may still have some naivete, and his tactics aren't always spot on, but Olsen's ability to manage a locker room is off the charts. All that said, I think we will need to see some progress on the field between now and the end of the year before we can say with any confidence that Benny will be back for 2014.
Speaking of 2014, that #1 SuperDraft selection is looking more and more secure. With a few very strong Generation Adidas candidates appearing likely to be available at both forward and central defense - two huge areas of need for D.C. - it's going to be some small consolation for the pain of this year. Rumors of scouting trips to Europe and South America by United staff haven't resulted in any big signings as of yet, but with the relative failure of most of the club's designated players - Marcelo Gallardo, Luciano Emilio (v.2), Branko Boskovic, Hamdi Salihi, Rafael Teixeira de Souza - one hopes that the team will do its due diligence before committing that kind of money and salary cap space to any one player.
That said, the recent roster moves are encouraging; some of the best teams in the league year after year are those that build on a core of skillful, American (read: cheap) talent. Bringing in the likes of Jared Jeffrey, Conor Doyle and Luis Silva definitely puts the Black-and-Red in a better position than they were in a month ago.
The hope is these kind of moves - of which we hope more are coming - will be enough to put United back into the ranks of the competent, leaving the question to be what sort of player would put D.C. over the top and back into the contenders' conversation. But I'm getting ahead of myself; right now the short-term goal is simple competence.