I’m hearing voices — voices awash with anxiety about D.C. United’s playoff chances, about the outlook for a new stadium, about the injury situation, about Charlie Davies’ future, and other club matters.
Those inquisitive voices want answers. I feel the need to respond. Here goes.....
Will D.C. United make the playoffs?
A week ago I would’ve said yes. Today I say maybe. United remains in decent standing, two points out of a wild-card berth and with fewer matches played than its chief rivals. Three victories in the last four outings would do it. Two wins and a draw might work as well. On paper, DCU should secure passage. But the two losses in the past week were gutting, morale-sapping results: a two-goal comeback wasted in Philly, a halftime lead evaporates in Columbus. This club hasn’t won consecutive league games since June 2009 — what makes you think DCU is capable of a sudden surge? Much hinges on the next match, an Oct. 12 away game against the league’s worst team, the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps. The Caps are well out of the race but highly motivated, performing in a freshly renovated venue and eager to atone for a 4-0 loss in Washington. United could live with a draw on the road, but realistically, the club needs to win, thus easing the pressure of having to perhaps win three straight over eight days at home.
So, how soon until heavy construction equipment is in place at Buzzard Point to begin work on the new stadium?
Hilarious. Yes, as far as I know, the Southwest D.C. location sits atop the club’s wish list. Yes, owner Will Chang made murky reference to a possible breakthrough recently. No, I have no plans to attend a groundbreaking ceremony next week or next month (next year?). Chang declined to provide details and the club’s official line is: “D.C. United continues to pursue opportunities to build a new stadium in Washington and Baltimore. We have had ongoing conversations with officials in each jurisdiction and will continue to meet in the weeks ahead. We don’t anticipate any announcement in the near future, but are working diligently to find the best solution to ensure the future of the team.”
D.C. government contacts tell my Post colleagues that United officials, realizing the city has no money to help finance a sports venue, suggested to the mayor’s office that they would build a stadium themselves if they received a tax abatement. Other city sources say DCU President Kevin Payne recently met with council members about the general stadium prospects and the discussion "fell flat.” Oof. Well, we are celebrating RFK Stadium’s 50th birthday this week; why not 50 more?
(Read this story from The Post’s Sunday Magazine about Buzzard Point and the development ideas.)
Back to on-field issues. Will any of United’s two-dozen injured defenders play again?
So cynical! First of all, Brandon McDonald isn’t hurt; he served a yellow card suspension and will return for the Vancouver match. The club was cautious with Dejan Jakovic, who’s been out for six weeks with a hamstring injury. I’d imagine he’ll go on the British Columbia trip. Ethan White sprained a knee ligament last week and is under evaluation. Right back Jed Zayner (remember him?) won’t be cleared to resume full training for a couple more weeks. On the bright side, Devon McTavish (preseason concussion) was on the game-day roster Sunday; however, he hasn’t played in a serious first-team match in almost a year.
Shouldn’t midfielder Branko Boskovic return soon from ACL surgery?
Not likely. It’s a six-month process. He’s nearing the five-month mark. And like McTavish, he hasn’t played a real game in a long time.
Any chance Chris Pontius could return for the playoffs?
United would have to reach MLS Cup. If you’re going to break your leg, he did it the right way: a clean fracture. He’ll resume his career next year without complication, but this season is all but done. It’s too bad, because with him in the finest form of his career, United had become a lethal attacking side. From March to September, he was, in my opinion, the team MVP.
Will Charlie Davies return to DCU next season?
Great question. He is nearing the end of a one-season loan from French club Sochaux. The deal includes a purchase option, which I’ve reported to be $1.3 million. That’s a lot of money for any MLS club to dole out, not to mention one that has a solo investor actively seeking partners. There are other issues: Does Sochaux want him back? My guess is that the mid-table club has seen him play in MLS this season, and while encouraged by his inspiring comeback and scoring spurts, doesn’t project him returning to regular duty in Ligue 1. If that is the case, would Sochaux be willing to accept a lower transfer fee? I’d imagine so. Everything is negotiable. Does Davies want to stay with United? He says he feels part of the club, part of the city, part of the soccer community. Ultimately, he would like to return to Europe and the national team, but for now, Washington seems right.
If United misses the playoffs, will Ben Olsen get canned?
No. This is a long-term project. Since preseason camp opened, the aim has remained modest: build a team good enough to compete for a playoff spot. That team is good enough now, and while missing the postseason would be disappointing, it wouldn’t prompt a coaching change. Olsen and the front office are taking a broad view. Unless Olsen decides to do something else with his post-playing life, he will oversee a 2012 squad with greater ambitions.