Arrived: Taylor Kemp (college draft), John Thorrington (MLS retread draft), Casey Townsend (acquired for cheap from Chivas), James Riley (acquired for practically nothing from Chivas), Michael Seaton (stolen from cradle), Syamsir Alam (boss’s son), Rafael Teixeira de Souza (boy from Brazil).
Departed: Andy Najar (sold to Anderlecht), Josh Wolff (retired), Branko Boskovic (exiled to Montenegro), Long Tan (sent out for trash run, door locked behind him), Maicon Santos (accidentally left in hotel room in Chicago), Mike Chabala (smothered with pillow), Stephen King (sent to a farm upstate where he can run and play and be with other central midfielders).
Not yet departed: Hamdi Salihi. But oh, they’re working it. Steven Goff reports that United is trying to sell him to Chinese organ thieves, but based on his work rate last year, there are concerns about the health of his lungs.
Right now, this is your starting lineup:
This is incredibly fine. This lineup gets the part of my brain that controls “moderately satisfied” extremely excited. But in my opinion, this is not a championship contender, which is what United should be after reaching the conference final with a young team last year. I think the team is missing one, maybe two quality attacking players.
Here’s the thing: the Saragosa-Kitchen engine room doesn’t quite do it for me. They don’t generate enough offense. Sure, this was the tandem patrolling the midfield during most of United’s 5-0-2 stretch run last year, but three things about that: 1) All five of those wins were by one goal (and let’s be honest: several of those games could have gone either way), 2) United averaged only 1.4 goals per game during that stretch, and 3) Much of United’s offense came from Najar, who is now neck-deep in waffles and Rosetta Stone CDs.
United needs one more quality attacking player. Maybe it will get that player once the blockage that is Salihi is dislodged from United’s roster, thus allowing transfers to flow freely once more. And maybe Rafael With An “F” will be the player that helps Pajoy fulfill his destiny as a third striker. It’s possible that Townsend or Raphael Augusto or somebody will come out of nowhere and be the extra attacker that United need. But teams are like movies: If they look like they’re going to be bad, they probably will be bad. You can’t just assume your team will be the 2012 Orioles or Cider House Rules.
I worry that United’s lack of a stadium is hurting the on-field product (although stadium prospects are looking brighter). As long as the team plays in that haunted house on the Potomac, United is a money pit. You can’t expect Erick Thohir and Will Chang to spend big on designated players when they’re losing money like a rapper at a strip club. RFK Stadium is why we can’t have nice things like Drogba and Lampard. Even the Najar transfer fee — which seems to be about $2.25 million into United’s pocket — may or may not be spent on new players. I could picture Change and Thohir saying, “Great, we’ll use that money to offset some of our losses and buy some raccoon traps and call it a day.”
The season starts March 2. United has time to buy someone because the international transfer window reopens this summer and because the MLS regular season only kind-of matters. But United does see that it’s missing a piece, right? Look at the missing piece closely: It is definitely not shaped like Syamsir Alam. I’ll concede that the piece isn’t shaped like Lampard, but is it possibly shaped like his non-union Mexican counterpart? I don’t know. This is a metaphor, and a bad one at that. But something is definitely missing, and I hope the front office sees that, too.