Olsen, Kasper likely to return in 2014

(D.C. United) (D.C. United)

My sources tell me D.C. United, despite three victories in 31 league matches, is likely to retain Ben Olsen as head coach and Dave Kasper as general manager. Full details here.

Opinions could shift over the next few weeks, but as things stand, the investment group believes the duo is capable of turning the club’s fortunes next season.

It’s not a package deal: Each will be evaluated separately. One could stay and one could go. It appears both will stay.

Of the three investors, Washington-based Jason Levien is closest to club operations and will have the most say in the matter. However, if out-of-town money men Erick Thohir and Will Chang demand change, change will come.

In the big picture, United overachieved a bit last year (third in the Supporters’ Shield race and a berth in the Eastern Conference finals) and underachieved a lot this year (19th out of 19 clubs and a catastrophic record). The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

If leadership believes it is entering the offseason with a middling roster, Kasper and Olsen will face enormous pressure to identify and acquire players capable of lifting the club back into playoff contention next year. In order to accomplish that, though, the investment group will need to pledge financial support.

On the heels of a deep run into the playoffs, the club blew it last winter. It misjudged and overhyped ill-suited Brazilian striker Rafael, miscalculated on waifish Panamanian winger Marcos Sanchez and wasted an allocation pick on it’s-not-2002 Carlos Ruiz, an acquisition that reeked of desperation. United did not have to sell Andy Najar, but the young Honduran wanted to spread his wings in Europe and the transfer price was right. The club blindly placed faith in Lionard Pajoy, who, for all of his glaring shortcomings, was vital to the playoff charge last year.

In United’s defense, no one could have predicted the downfall of the club’s proven center backs, Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald, or the under-performances by 2012 Best XI attacker Chris Pontius and rookie of the year finalist Nick DeLeon. Age, inevitably, caught up to Dwayne De Rosario. Several regular starters should have been spot starters.

After this year’s disaster, Olsen and Kasper will have to get it right over the winter. If management isn’t afraid to buy out contracts now — money is not preventing the club from making changes — it certainly won’t hesitate next spring in case of another poor start.

There are rewards for failure:

First pick in the Jan. 16 college draft in Philadelphia

First choice in the re-entry drafts (MLS free agents) in December

First slot in the allocation order (U.S. national team players who sign with MLS and are not necessarily designated players. See the Clint Dempsey rule.)

Allocation money for missing the playoffs

Allocation money for qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League

Some pieces are in place: Perry Kitchen and Jared Jeffrey in defensive midfield. Pontius and DeLeon on the wings. Luis Silva in attacking midfield. Bill Hamid in goal. The club is desperate (again) for a striker. No one on the backline distinguished themselves this year, leaving all four positions up for grabs.

United might purchase loaner forward Conor Doyle from Derby County. De Rosario is entering a club-held option year and is in no position to command a DP salary anymore. He and Olsen collided midway through the season over playing time. Would DeRo be willing to re-sign at a lower figure and accept a secondary role? Or would he prefer to end his career with an instant contender?

Say goodbye to Ruiz, Pajoy, Marcelo Saragosa, Syamsir Alam (who?) and Sainey Nyassi. Others are in jeopardy, as well.

Child actors Michael Seaton, Collin Martin, Taylor Kemp and Conor Shanosky will remain in the mix. Young players yearn to learn — does United have the staff to teach them? Lewis Neal, a classy pro, will probably stick around. Maybe fellow old-timer John Thorrington too.

The rest is up to Kasper and Olsen, who, from all indications, will receive a mulligan for slicing this year’s tee shot far and deep into the woods and never finding the ball.

Shifting gears …..

Levien declined to discuss Kasper and Olsen’s future but did offer an update on the Buzzard Point stadium negotiations.

United representatives have paid regular visits to the Wilson Building, where the mayor and D.C. council members have offices.

“We’ve put a lot of hours into it since the announcement” of the tentative deal with the city, Levien said. “The relationships we have built with city officials, the administration, the city council and private land owners have strengthened. Our resolve and commitment to move this process forward is as great as it has been. We’re taking steps and making progress.”

How have council members responded to United’s lobbying efforts?

“Favorable. I don’t think we’re going to win 13-0″ in a council vote to approve the stadium and the complicated land swap proposals. “There is some strong support for it and we feel good about it.”

Levien did not want to speculate on the timetable, but legislation seems likely to be introduced within 60 days.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.

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Steven Goff · October 8, 2013