With D.C. United stuck at four points through six matches and the attack in a terrible state, attention has inevitably turned to the roster composition and what, if anything, the front office plans to do. General Manager Dave Kasper, in his 12th season at RFK Stadium, addressed several issues during a chat after Tuesday’s training session.
Are you concerned about the team’s situation?
“Of course, there is a concern, but certainly we know help is on the way a few weeks from now with players getting back on the field. At one point, we had four of our most important players out. It’s your midfield. It’s your engine. It’s a very critical part of the field, and missing that many players in the same area has made things difficult.”
Dwayne De Rosario (adductor) returned last weekend after a one-game layoff. Nick DeLeon (hamstring) is three to four weeks from returning and John Thorrington (knee) about a month but Lewis Neal (groin area) is indefinite. On a side note, Thorrington is progressed well enough that he can ride his bike to RFK from his home on Capitol Hill. Neal was sidelined early this year before making his 2013 debut in the Columbus home match March 23. However, he has had complications indirectly related to the original injury and, for a week or so, was barely able to walk properly.
Ben Olsen suggested after the game Saturday that things need to change and the club might have to make changes through a trade or signing. Do you concur?
“Since we went down with a number of injuries, we have looked harder in the league and outside the league.”
The MLS transfer window is open until May 6, and although availability at this time of the year is limited (compared to the summer period), there could be a player out of favor or someone on a club facing relegation who is looking to move right away.
“There are opportunities out there, but you want to make sure it’s not just a quick fix, that it’s a piece that can contribute long term. While the team is not having success, you have to balance things and not make a rash move and get a player who, six months from now, is not getting on the field. But we have explored opportunities. Nothing is imminent right now, but those conversations are still on-going.”
Beyond the injuries, though, do you feel this team is missing something?
“We’re not scoring goals, but we know there are players on this team that have scored goals in this league — and a lot of them. They will score goals in due time. It’s a matter of finding the right combination on the field and continuing to work. It’s going to come.”
Chris Pontius, a Best XI selection last year with 12 goals and four assists, has no goals and one assist. Dwayne De Rosario (seven and 12 in 2012) has none in either category, albeit in just three appearances. DeLeon (six and four last year) has not posted a point. Lionard Pajoy (three goals in 12 DCU games in ’12) has one this season.
Over the winter, the club cut ties with strikers Maicon Santos and Hamdi Salihi, who combined for 13 goals last year. Santos scored in small bursts and Salihi wasn’t the complete player that United hoped for and carried a designated player salary. In their stead, newcomer Rafael has one goal in three games and late signing Carlos Ruiz is scoreless in five brief appearances.
Few trades occur this early in the season because most teams are not looking to break from their initial plan. The summer window opens in July, and teams and players typically begin agreeing to deals in June.
Aside from addressing immediate concerns, I imagine you have a close eye on the summer window…..
“We remain focused on this transfer window, as well the summer window for something a little bit bigger. We are lining up options for summer.”
Do you have much salary cap space available?
“We have some space.”
Understandably, to avoid tipping his hand to other MLS clubs, he did not specify the amount.
Are you worried about the team’s psyche during a difficult stretch like this?
“It’s something you have to work on to keep the guys upbeat and motivated and mentally tough.”
Ben is a young coach. Do you worry about him losing the locker room?
“No. Ben handles it very well. He has been through it before. He has been through good seasons and rough seasons as a player, and that experience is invaluable. He remains calm. He has a good way about him to get through these times.”
Are you still looking at an international friendly in July?
“Still working on it. Most likely the 12th or 13th.”
Kasper would not comment on possible opponents, but the Insider has learned Pumas, Chivas and Newcastle were among the early candidates. QPR also apparently showed interest, but United had no interest in the relegation-bound Premier League side. Newcastle also seems unlikely because of limited drawing power. After all, if United couldn’t attract a big audience for Paris Saint-Germain (13,176) last year and Ajax (10,728) and Everton (12,789) in 2011, fans are not going to flock to see the Magpies. Chivas and Pumas, on the other hand, would appeal to a segment of the region’s Latin American community and have stronger ties to American soccer through CONCACAF events and periodic visits to the States.
I will post some additional United news and notes later today. Stay tuned…..