Chivas USA folds; Conference realignment for 2015

This afternoon Major League Soccer’s  worst kept secret came to fruition when the league announced that Chivas USA has ceased operations after ten years of play.

The team and front office have been disbanded and the players will be dispersed via a Dispersal Draft which will be held in early December according to various sources. MLS teams will pick from their roster in reverse order of finish from their 2014 MLS season. That would put D.C. United third from the bottom and in all likelihood United will pass on their opportunity to pick a player from one of the worst rosters in MLS.

Commissioner Don Garber announced that a second Los Angeles franchise will be announced this Thursday and begin league play in 2017. A group of investors led by Vietnamese-American businessman Henry Ngyuen will take charge of the yet-to-be-named team while Arthur Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons, will spearhead the Atlanta franchise also set to begin in 2017.

Additionally, the league announced also that because of the 2015 additions of expansion franchises NYCFC and Orlando City SC, that the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City will be moved to the Western Conference beginning next season. This will balance out both conferences at ten teams apiece. With MLS now set at 20 teams, the schedule will remain at 34 league games.

Each team will play every opponent in the opposite conference once (5 at home; 5 away – 10 games total) and will play home-and-home against each conference team (18 games total) and an additional 6 games against a conference opponent (3 home; 3 away). Those additional games have yet to be decided but most likely will attempt to keep league rivalries in play (Atlantic Cup/Cascadia Cup/Rocky Mountain Cup/California Clasico/Texas Derby, etc…) and will rotate from year-to-year.

What this means for D.C. United is that things have gotten a lot less complicated as they have traded two conference rivals for two expansion teams. While it may appear an easier path to the playoffs with Houston and SKC out of the picture, it would be a tragic mistake for United,their staff and their fans to assume it will be a cakewalk from this point forward.

2013 should have told us all we need to know about that.

 

 

 

 

 

United acquires Eddie Johnson from Seattle Sounders – Caveat Emptor

D.C. United made a major offseason move yesterday with the acquisition of mercurial striker Eddie Johnson from the Seattle Sounders in exchange for allocation money. The U.S. International, who was instrumental in helping the U.S. qualify for the World Cup in Brazil next summer, was persona non grata in Seattle after the Sounders late-season collapse. Allegations of jealousy over contract status (his “Pay Me” celebration in a league match in Columbus in September certainly didn’t help matters) and locker room unhappiness have been laid at the feet of the talented striker. When the Sounders acquired Kenny Cooper last week in a trade with FC Dallas, that was the last straw for Johnson in Seattle.

United has been in dire need of a speedy goal-scoring forward since… well, forever actually and now they have one. Whether or not the current roster can supply Johnson with the necessary service from the wings is another matter altogether. The trade for Johnson certainly didn’t come cheap but it didn’t have to involve any players or United’s #1 pick in next months MLS SuperDraft. It’s unknown at this moment how much allocation money was sent Seattle’s way, but with an estimated $1.5 million dollars of allocation money accrued over these past few months for various reasons (you suck allocation; CONCACAF Champions League allocation; previous trades, etc..), the trade was a no-brainer in terms of bringing in the talent that Johnson possesses. United was not going to find another striker within MLS with Johnson’s talent without selling the farm. Additionally, it is being reported by the Washington Post that Johnson will play the 2014 season under his current contract cap hit of around $150,000 with the promise that a legitimate and fair negotiation with United Technical Director Dave Kasper will commence at some point during the season. What that means in a nutshell is that United most likely will re-sign Johnson to a multi-year contract that will make Johnson either a Designated Player or someone pretty close to DP money ($390,00 per season).

While Johnson will undoubtedly will help United out of their record-setting goal-scoring malaise in 2013, the also acquired a player with a built-in host of issues that could create some issues on and off the field for United. Johnson has a well decorated history of colorful behavior both on and off the field that could leave many United fans with legitimate concerns toward his ultimate effectiveness with the squad. While they desperately need a player of his ability – fast, great in the air and most important of all – a great finisher – is the juice worth the squeeze if Johnson falls back into some of his old habits that have hastened his departure from multiple clubs?

At this point, the answer to that question is a profound yes. This team was at an all-time low last season. Surely they could use some fire and passion in this team, be it from a player who has been known to rattle a few cages. Could they really do any worse than 3 wins and 22 goals scored with Johnson? I highly doubt it. Besides, Johnson at the very least does have some motivation to start scoring goals right from the start with United.

Johnson is far from a lock for the World Cup squad for the U.S in June. He’s a lot closer than players like Chris Wondolowski or Hercules Gomez for example, but he does need to keep his goal-scoring up to solidify his spot on the team and in my mind that only helps United. United will have Johnson in camp in early February after the U.S.’ match with South Korea in late January. That should give him a solid 4-5 weeks of training with his teammates to hopefully build on some cohesion heading into the MLS opener at RFK Stadium against the Columbus Crew on March 8th.

After the season begins, Johnson will have roughly 8 matches to play with United before leaving for training camp with the National Team ahead of the World Cup. What happens after his return from Brazil will be anyone’s guess at this point. Will we get the Eddie Johnson who came back to MLS in 2012 and earned his way back on the National Team or will we get the sulky Eddie Johnson who returned to MLS after the 2006 World Cup and labored with the Kansas City Wizards (in fairness to Eddie, he did bounce back in a big way in 2007 with 15 goals for the Wizards)?

Regardless, United has acquired a legitimate game-changer in terms of goal-scoring that they have not seen here in D.C. since the first incarnation of Luciano Emilio. I know Dwyane De Rosario came to town in the middle of 2011 and lit up MLS on the way to an MVP trophy, but we all knew in the back of our minds that DeRo was on his last legs and this past season certainly was proof of that.

It will be an interesting year for United that is certainly not in doubt. Will the addition of Johnson, Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Fabian Espindola (rumored to be the #1 pick  for United today in the Re-Entry Draft Stage 2) and the #1 overall MLS SuperDraft pick next month (Maryland’s Patrick Mullins would be nice left-footed version of Chris Pontius if you ask me) be enough to propel United back into the playoffs? I guess we’ll just have to buy a ticket for this ride and see where it goes..

 

Andy Najar celebrates his goal against the San Jose Earthquakes

El DC United Washingtoniano tonifica ofensiva con sabor latino

WASHINGTON DC.— Coincidencias sabrosas del fútbol, el director técnico del DC United washingtoniano, Ben Olsen,  nos sorprendió a inicio de la temporada pasada (2012) en su primer encuentro formal con los medios de información, con el panorama sólido, de absoluta confianza y muy convencido de lo que esperaba de su escuadra bisoña.

Y aunque nos sorprendió –de veras–, con su aplomo, y debemos de reconocer que –aunque nos mantuvo en suspenso hasta el final– el cuadro capitalino realizó una extraordinaria campaña en el 2012, logrando regresar el equipo a los juegos del playoffs , cosa que no lo lograba desde el 2007 luego de campañas verdaderamente catastróficas.

Hoy en el 2013, Ben Olsen vuelve exactamente con el mismo convencimiento para el panorama de su 18va temporada. El DC United se muestra optimista y –diríamos- un tanto más consolidado en lo que a su linea ofensiva se refiere apostando por jugadores que aunque jóvenes, llegan con cierto recorrido futbolero.

Pero lo realmente interesante es que esta vez la linea de ataque washingtoniano tiene un sabor muy latinoamericano, y es más, con ritmo sudamericano tras la adquisición de dos jóvenes talentos brasileños –Rafael (que estará un año a préstamo del club Bahía) y Raphael Augusto– esto agregado a la cimentación del colombiano Lionard Pajoy que llegó al club desde mediados de la temporada pasada.

Bien por “Benny” Olsen que ha apostado igualmente por la juventud del mediocampista ofensivo, Syamsir Alam, de 20 años, nacido en Indonesia, a préstamo del club belga C.S. Visé.

Interesante perspectiva la de Olsen ya que Syamsir tiene recorrido con buena base juvenil, ha pasado por todas las categorías a nivel de selección de su país arrancando desde la Sub–11.

De la misma manera, Olsen ha consolidado su sector ofensivo con la llegada del delantero Casey Townsend, de la cantera de la Universidad de Maryland, y proveniente del Chivas USA.

Esta linea ofensiva, que está ya trabajando Ben Olsen en la pretemporada, ya por una semana, en su concentración de la Academia IMG en Bradenton, Florida, dará un mejor panorama de opciones y visión de gol a su experimentado capitán canadiense Dwayne DeRosario, DeRo, que tanta falta hizo en los en los playoffs…

DeRo no está concentrado con el equipo en Florida por estar convocado a su selección canadiense en partidos de preparación, ya que se apresta a disputar la Copa de Oro a jugarse en 13 sedes estadounidenses a partir del 7 de Julio.

Por cierto, tendremos partidos de Copa de Oro en la zona metropolitana en el estadio M&T Bank de la ciudad de Baltimore que tiene capacidad para 57,000 espectadores…Nos deja un tanto extrañados la elección de esta sede y que no se eligiera al coloso de Anacostia, nuestro RFK Washingtoniano. Lo dejamos para otra nota, pero allí claramente es la capacidad del estadio y el  modernismo de sus instalaciones la que cuenta.

Igualmente otro jugador que no se ha alejado del las filas del DC United es el mediocampista Chris Pontius, aunque no está concentrado por estar en proceso de recuperación para estar a punto para el inicio de temporada frente al Houston Dynamo, el 2 de marzo.

Fue justamente ante Dynamo que el DC United jugó los playoffs y que lo dejó fuera con una buena facturación de goles. Le fue mal a DC en los playoffs. Con DeRolesionado y Pontius igualmente golpeado, sucumbieron ante un Houston que llegó completo.

Otro que esperemos que regrese a la escuadra es el juvenil hondureño Andy Nájarque está jugando a préstamo con el club belga Anderlecht.

LOS QUE PARTIERON

La más sentida partida, muy difundida en los medios de información, fue la del Presidente del club Kevin Payne quién partió hacia territorio canadiense para hacerse cargo del Toronto FC. Se dejará sentir la ausencia de Payne ya que fue el gran artífice de los logros del club especialmente cuando DC logró sus cuatro campeonatos.

Igualmente el equipo dejó en libertad al atacante chino Long Tan, a Maicon Santos, quien fue dejado en libertad y ancló en Chicago Fire. El defensor argentino Emiliano Dudar también se aleja del D.C. United.

El portero Diego Restrepo, ex jugador de la Universidad de Virginia y los clubes latinoamericanos América de Cali de Colombia y Deportivo Táchira de Venezuela, estuvo probándose con el club pero no convenció.

También fue alejado de la plantilla fue el delantero albanés Hamdi Salihi, uno de los jugadores franquicia el año pasado, pero que jugó sólo en 22 partidos. A nosotros nos pareció un desperdicio total de esfuerzos y de dinero en este jugador. No aportó absolutamente nada al club…Mucho ruido y pocas nueces!!!.

Quién lo trajo, cómo llegó? misterio total en el club y que a nosotros no nos cabe saberlo, lo cierto que fue un fiasco total para la escuadra washingtoniana. Salihi hizo solo seis goles en 22 partidos en los cuales casi siempre arrancó en la banca. Lo números hablan por él.

Así mismo los mediocampistas el montenegrino Branko Boskovic y Stephen King y  fueron dados de baja de la plantilla del club capitalino. Otro que se alejó del club en el cuerpo técnico es el entrenador de porteros Pat Onstad que fue al Toronto FC donde se encontrará con Kevin Payne.

LA ARMADA DE OLSEN

Dadas así las cosas la escuadra capitalina, que está aceitando engranajes en Florida, presentará su rostro para esta temporada más o menos así: Rafael, Saragosa, Raphael Augusto, Pajoy y Nájar poniendo el pincelazo latino. Bill Hamid en la portería (en estos momentos entrenando con la selección mayor de USA para el partido amistoso de preparación del hexagonal mundialista, frente a Canadá en Houston.

Igualmente están confirmados en la escuadra  rojinegra, Ethan White, Chris Korb, Jakovic, Brandon McDonald, Robbie Russell, Daniel Woolard y Taylor Kemp (seleccionado del draft emelesero).

La otra grata novedad es que el veterano goleador Josh “Lobito” Wolff (retirado del fútbol activo) será asistente de Olsen a tiempo completo, en el cuerpo técnico capitalino…De veras, vientos juveniles soplan en el el DC United Capitalino. Veremos que tan alto pueden llegar esta vez las legendarias Aguilas Rojinegras Washingtonianas…Creemos que muy alto.

United select Maryland defender Taylor Kemp with 17th pick in MLS SuperDraft

D.C. United selected University of Maryland defender Taylor Kemp with the 17th pick in the first round of today’s MLS SuperDraft. Kemp, a four-year starter for Sasho Cirovski at Maryland, will provide depth at the left back spot for the Black-and-Red. Kemp is known for his ability to get forward and hit in quality crosses combined with a very good defensive pedigree.

United had a number of needs heading into the draft but decided go defensive particularly in the light of news today that Belgium side Anderlecht will most likely put in a transfer request for United defender Andy Najar. If Najar does get sold, then Kemp immediately will help out if the concussion symptoms linger with injured defender Daniel Woolard.

Kemp had an injury-filled senior season at the University of Maryland that most likely hurt his draft status. Kemp, arguable the top left-back availabe in the draft, was being considered as a Generation Adidas prospect last winter but decided to come back for his Senior year. Kemp will immediately report to RFK Stadium on Friday to begin training with D.C. United as they start their preseason training this afternoon.

United does not have a 2nd round pick but that doesn’t mean they are finished as the possibility of trading into the 2nd round exists. If United decide not to move up, they do have the Supplemental Draft to deal with next week.

Gallery: Dwayne De Rosario named MLS Player of the Month

D.C. United announced today that midfielder/forward Dwayne De Rosario has been named MLS Player of the Month for May by the North American Soccer Reporters. In that honor, here’s a few images of De Rosario in action during May at RFK Stadium.

During the month, De Rosario scored four goals, including a game-winner against his former club Toronto FC, and tallied four assists, including a game-winning assist against the New England Revolution.

DeRosario currently leads the League in assists (8), and is fourth in the League in terms of shots (44).

Throughout May, De Rosario was a mainstay in D.C. United’s lineup, where he played 90 minutes in all but one game (81 minutes vs. Colorado on 5/16), leading the Black-and-Red to an impressive 4-0-2 record and propelling the club to first place in the Eastern Conference.

D.C. United selected Louisville midfielder Nick DeLeon with the seventh pick in 2012 MLS SuperDraft in Kansas City, Missouri yesterday. Photo: Tony Quinn

United selects Nick DeLeon as their top pick in 2012 MLS SuperDraft

D.C. United selected Louisville midfielder Nick DeLeon with the seventh pick in 2012 MLS SuperDraft in Kansas City, Missouri yesterday. Photo: Tony Quinn

D.C. United selected Louisville midfielder Nick DeLeon with the seventh pick in 2012 MLS SuperDraft in Kansas City, Missouri yesterday. Photo: Tony Quinn

DeLeon, a Phoenix, Arizona native, was United’s lone pick in the two-round draft held at the Kansas City Convention Center. United had traded away it’s 2nd-round pick to Columbus in the trade to acquire Jed Zayner late in the 2010 MLS season. United still has their natural picks left in next weeks Supplemental Draft, essentially the former 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds of the SuperDraft.

DeLeon is a central midfielder by trade but has played on the left side of midfield extensively in his two seasons at the University of Louisville. DeLeon scored 14 goals and added 6 assists in starting all 46 of his career matches with the Cardinals after spending his first two seasons of college soccer playing at UNLV before transferring to the Bluegrass State.  “We didn’t think we would be able to get Nick with the seventh pick in today’s Draft,” said United Head Coach Ben Olsen . “We’re extremely excited about Nick – he’s pro-ready, and we saw throughout his season this year that he’s one of the guys that is ready to play professional soccer. Physically, he has all the tools and we’re going to challenge him with a tough preseason coming up. I think this kid is going to be a gamer, and I know he’s excited to join the guys and get moving.”

DeLeon will join the rest of United’s squad in DC beginning this week to start preparing for the 2012 season that begins on March 10th at home against Sporting Kansas City

 

Mark Your Calendars

Major League Soccer announced today the starting dates for the 2012, 17th overall, Season.

D.C. United will play its first match at home on March 10, 2012 with a yet to be determined opponent.

Also opening at home on the same day will be the defending MLS Cup and Supporters Shield Champion, LA Galaxy, along with the Colorado Rapids, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

MLS also announced that the Houston Dynamo will open their new facility on Saturday May 12th, 2012.

DC United, who finished 7th in the Eastern Conference Standings is eager to get back on the pitch. League MVP Dwayne De Rosario on receiving his MVP award stated that his primary goal would be to get D.C. United back to where it belongs, on top.

To that end United also added veteran defender Robbie Russel in an exchange with Real Salt Lake. For the veteran defender United gave up a third round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.

RMF_3750

United signs Davies to one-year loan deal

After what was seemingly a very long wait, the worst-kept secret in DC over the past week was confirmed when Charlie Davies was officially signed today by D.C. United on a one-year loan from his team FC Sochaux in France. Davies had to go through ten days of trials for Head Coach Ben Olsen and the rest of the front office staff before United signed off on the deal this morning. United has the option to buy out his contract from Sochaux on December 1st later this year.

“We are really pleased to have concluded a deal that will bring Charlie to United,” said General Manager Dave Kasper. “Charlie spent 10 days with us in our first pre-season camp and underwent a full battery of physical and medical testing. He simply looks terrific. Coming in, we weren’t sure where he would be, but he’s great physically, has impressed with his mental approach and we’re excited to see him on the field with us this season.”

Davies’ story to get to United is well chronicled and the road to get to United seems like the perfect fit, both for Davies and United who clearly need someone to start scoring goals.  “Charlie Davies is going to be a great addition to this club,” said United Head Coach Ben Olsen. “He is a player that can make a difference, and we are looking forward to seeing him contribute to the Black-and-Red.” Taking on Davies is not without inherent risk however. While he seems to be in great physical condition and he and the club are saying all the right things, one has to wonder how this could all backfire if Davies’ can’t recapture that magic that saw him spring onto the National Team in 2009 and give hope to all U.S. Soccer fans that they do indeed have a threat up top to score goals on the international level.

First thing’s first though, let’s get Davies into game shape and then see what is sown from his preseason training. “I know the preseason competition hasn’t been the highest level, but it was enough for me to see that he can help this team. We still have time to get him and the rest of the team ready for the season. It’s important now to build confidence amongst the squad and we are ready to go out to California and get a few matches in”, said Olsen after the press conference.

United will now fly out to California and have a two-week stay there before heading back to the East Coast to take part in the Carolina Cup March 5-12th in which they will take on the Charleston Battery, Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire before they open up their season at home vs the Columbus Crew on Saturday, March 19th at 7:30 pm

United Notes

  • Davies contract is believed to be a base salary of $180,000 with many incentive clauses that could total around $300,000 should they be met.
  • United used their top spot in the allocation order to select Davies. The allocation draft is a mechanism to bring National Team pool players back to MLS. The draft order goes in reverse direction of where your team finished the previous season. Since Vancouver and Portland were expansion teams, they had picks before United. Vancouver selected defender Jay DeMerit and Portland selected forward Kenny Cooper. United was next in line.
  • United earlier this week opted out of three seperate weighted lotteries for Cody Arnoux (Real Salt Lake), Chris Argosor (Philadelphia Union) and Kory Veeder (Columbus Crew). That draft had nothing to do with United’s allocation order

United adds Josh Wolff in second phase of the Re-Entry Draft

D.C. United selected former Sporting Kansas City forward Josh Wolff with the first pick in the second phase of the MLS Re-Entry Draft this afternoon. Wolff signed a one-year deal with a club held option on this second year. Wolff made $220,000 last season and although terms were not disclosed, the team did say that he accepted a pay cut to play for the Black-and-Red.

Wolff and Joseph Ngwenya, selected in last week’s first stage by United, will look to give United some much needed pace on the forward line. United struggled to score goals last season and their lack of pace up front was one of many shortcomings for the team as they set a league record for futility in only scoring 21 goals in the 30-game season.

Many fans have already decried that Wolff was not the man to select as players like Jimmy Conrad (selected by Chivas USA right after United), Juan Pablo Angel (LA Galaxy) and Jeff Cunningham (Columbus Crew) were available. However, I don’t think those players would budge very far from their astronomical price tags from last season and the feeling is that Wolff was an easier target for negotiations.

Eleven players were selected in the second phase with Houston trading their pick to the Galaxy who picked Angel. United still has an opportunity to select even more players as the second phase will conclude only when all 16 teams pass on their selections.