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  Goff: D.C. United Will Finish Out Front

D.C. United Logo The Post's Steven Goff said in an online discussion, on July 20, that United will finish first in the Eastern Conference, but may have trouble in the playoffs, where talented New England, Tampa Bay and Columbus teams will challenge them.

The transcript of the discussion follows.


Washington D.C.: I thought Kamler was one of the more under rated players on the United this season..was it a wise choice to trade him?

Steven Goff: Kamler is very good, but Maessner gives United more speed and the flexibility to play on the left or right. Kamler essentially was a left-sided player. In addition, Miami really likes Kamler and thinks he can become a scorer there.


Fairfax, Va.: First, congratulations on your predictions for the WWC – they we're right on – though not perfect. I'm wondering: What the chances are that DC will relocate out of RFK to a new stadium – and where is that likely to be, if they do?

Steven Goff: At the moment, the only other option is Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, which proved during WWC that it can host soccer (albeit with a questionable width). If the Redskins decide to pursue another tenant for that stadium, United could end up there. The club's lease at RFK expires after this season and it doesn't appear any progress has been made in getting a new one done.


Vienna, Va.: You pointed out in your story about the trade for Albright that: "If Albright develops rapidly, D.C. may have to give up one of its starters after the season, possibly MLS scoring leader Roy Lassiter, those sources said." How can MLS expect fans to stay interested when all they'll end up doing is rooting for uniforms – uniforms which haven't exactly entered the national consciousness as they have over the years in other countries?

Steven Goff: Certainly, it takes time to build club loyalty, but at the same time, each club is making moves that it feels is in its best interests for improvement. United really wanted Albright, who is only 20 years old. And they think it is worth the risk of upsetting some fans by moving some players to get him.


Washington, D.C.: Do you think John Harkes will remain on the roster after the Confederations Cup? Does he still possess enough capacity to compete at the international level?

Steven Goff: This is Harkes's chance to prove himself again to Arena. Still, I'm not sure how much playing time he will get, if any. Do I think he'll be back? Hard to say, but he will certainly remain in the player pool (which includes about 40 players) for some time.


Springfield, Va.: How soon do you expect Chris Albright to make an impact with D.C. United? Will he start playing in games immediately?

Steven Goff: Because United is missing four Americans and two Bolivians (plus Sonora is hurt and Moore is suspended for yellow cards), Albright may start on Sunday at New England, probably in midfield.


Arlington, Va.: Any rumors or gossip to spread concerning MLS players headed to Europe? It would seem to me that folks like Brian McBride, Eddie Pope, and Jason Kreis would be getting feelers? How about U.S. players based overseas returning to MLS?

Steven Goff: I haven't heard much about MLS players going overseas, although Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman is very interested. As far as Americans coming here, Ernie Stewart seemed close, but he re-signed in Holland. Also David Regis has expressed interest, but nothing has been done recently. Sorry I don't know more.


Crofton, Md.: Why did the Fusion make this trade? It seems so lopsided in the favor of United. Also, what extra skills do Albright and Maessner bring to the team?

Steven Goff: Miami needs players, and Kamler gives them a pretty good one. Maessner wasn't fitting in that well down there. They also get a first-round draft choice (for what it's worth), but most importantly, they get future considerations, which may turn out to be a D.C. standout after this season.
Maessner brings speed on the flanks and excellent crossing ability; he makes things happen. Albright is a strong player with good skills and a limitless future.


Washington, D.C.: Would Roy Lassiter really be the right trade even if Albright develops quickly enough? Wouldn't Moreno be a better forward to surrender, because he scores much less than Lassiter? Or is the feeling that Moreno is protected by being under Etcheverry's wing, so to speak?

Steven Goff: It's probably a good idea to keep Etcheverry and Moreno together, but it's generally thought that Moreno is a much more rounded player – someone who can create and score. Lassiter is a great scorer, the best ever in MLS, but he's rather one-dimensional in the minds of most GMs and coaches.


Bealeton, Va.: How would you compare the quality of this year's D.C. club vs last year's?

Steven Goff: This year's club is still finding its way and at the moment is not as good as last year. But when United is at full strength, it's difficult to see anyone beating them.


Washington, D.C.: What is the likely impact of a U.S. woman's professional league on MLS? Isn't there a chance that a woman's league would cannibalize the small fan base of MLS, dooming both leagues to eventual failure?

Steven Goff: I don't think we'll see a major women's league until 2001 at the earliest. But to answer the questions, the leagues probably would have very different fan bases. Certainly DC United would like to get a larger suburban audience and a women's league would like to build a hard-core soccer following. Would it doom both of them? I doubt it, but certainly there should be some coordination between the two to avoid scheduling and marketing conflicts.


Brandywine, Md.: Will Chris Albright fit into the system of play for D.C. United? And with so many young talented American players United is picking up – David Hayes, Judah Cooks – when is Coach Rongen going to give them an opportunity to all play at the same time during an MLS game?

Steven Goff: Playing all those young Americans at the same time is risky because of their lack of experience. Rongen has tried to get time for each of them; even young David Hayes has seen action at forward and shown good signs. Cooks isn't ready to be a regular player, but I think you'll see Albright, Otero, Moore and others get more playing time as the season continues.


Washington D.C.: I hope it's not too outside the scope of this chat to ask a larger question, but what about the future of MLS as a whole? Is it on solid financial footing? It would seem than renting costly venues like QualComm stadium for an all-star game with a lackluster turnout isn't helping. Can MLS survive long-term in the absence of a strong New York franchise?

Steven Goff: The weak NY franchise is driving the league crazy, but as long as that front office remains, things won't get much better.
The league is well-financed for the next four or five years, but it needs to show signs of improvement in attendance and TV ratings in order to attract more deep-pocket investors.
The all-star turnout was weak, and Logan admits the league made a mistake playing in a non-franchise city for the second straight year. Next season it will be in Columbus, where it is sure to sell out.


Bethesda, Md.: How do you envision a women's league succeeding? The MLS cannot bankroll it, as the NBA has with the WNBA. If the MLS is anywhere from $50-100 million in the red, can a women's league be expected to do better, or at least the same?

Steven Goff: In order for a women's league to succeed, it must not set its sights too high. Small stadiums (if any are available---and high schools shouldn't be an option), small salaries, etc. I think it's the only way.


Fairfax, Va.: A.J.Wood was recently the center of attention with his remarkable play. After D.C. United is back at full strength in August, what do you think his role will be? Do you think Rongen has any plans for him to be more of an integral part of the lineup?

Steven Goff: AJ is having an excellent year, thanks in part to more playing time created by the absence of various starters. He has proven he can score consistently in this league, but once the big names are back, Wood's prime role will be coming off the bench and lifting the attack in the second half.


Washington, D.C.: How do you think the Diaz Arce trade will impact the Mutiny? Does the Diaz Arce-Valderamma combination now make Tampa Bay a legitimate threat to United in the playoffs?

Steven Goff: Diaz Arce needs a playmaker feeding him the ball. He had one in DC, but didn't in New England or San Jose. Now that he's in Tampa Bay with Valderrama, I would guess his scoring will increase significantly.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Do you think MLS only talks about parity when it serves its needs? Everyone knows Logan's statement about how dynasties aren't wanted in MLS, but giving Albright to DC when nearly every other team in the league has a more urgent need for a talented American player must have some motivation... perhaps the league views the CONCACAF Championship and then the World Club Championship as a powerful advertisement for MLS, but would MLS rather be a league like Ukraine's, where one team, essentially the national team, dominates, or a balanced one like England's?

Steven Goff: Indeed! MLS looks awfully good when a team like United, with many talented American players, wins an international event. At the same time, however, it needs to balance the league to keep everyone happy.


New York, N.Y.: Why are the Metrostars so horrible in all aspects? Shouldn't GM Charlie Stillitano be fired and have them start all over again?

Steven Goff: NY fans have been waiting for changes for a long time. The front office has been a wreck – poor drafts, puzzling foreign additions, bad coaching choices (Bora excluded, although even he might not be able to rescue this franchise). We'll see how these new foreigners do.


Arlington, Va.: I'm sad to see Kamler leave. How did he feel about the move? He seemed to really enjoy the team and the community. Will Maessner be any more effective than Kamler, or is this trade basically a wash?

Steven Goff: Kamler did not want to leave. He was one of only a few original players still with United (Etcheverry, Williams, Agoos and Pope are the others.) and had settled into the community. I believe he was coaching two youth girls teams. For his career, though, he may get more chances to shine in Miami.


Washington, D.C.: Some friends and I were recently speculating how D.C. United would fare if they played in an English league. Some thought they'd be a lower tier Premier League team, others that they could do well in the First Division but no higher. What do you think?

Steven Goff: Good question – I'd say they could compete with some Premier League teams, but I don't know how well they'd do over an entire season. United would probably fare much better in the first division. Perhaps we'll see a D.C. United-Manchester United showdown at the world club championship in Brazil next January!


Fairfax, Va.: Has average attendance at D.C. United games been near the top for the league? Has security been improved at the stadium enough to bring family members? I recall reading about bottle throwing in the stands. Are there any more plans to make the visit to the games more fan friendly?

Steven Goff: I believe United is third in attendance at nearly 19,000 a game. This is a vast improvement over the previous three years, but I still think some people are staying away because of previous unpleasant experiences. Fan misbehavior in the stands and parking lots turned off a lot of potential loyal fans. Things have improved, but RFK security and usher service is dreadful and only encourages more problems. Would I bring my kid to a game? Probably, but I'd be careful where I sat.


Silver Spring, Md.: Will the loss of Kamler's personality and character have a negative affect on the team?

Steven Goff: Kamler is a good guy and he certainly will be missed at United Park. However, I don't think his loss will have too great of an effect on the club.


Bealeton, Va.: How far is Eddie Pope from being both healthy and game-fit?

Steven Goff: Pope is healthy and is expected to start Sunday, but it will take him some time to regain full match fitness.


Rockville, Md.: Which type of shootout do you like better, MLS or World Cup?

Steven Goff: I don't like either one, although both add an element of drama. MLS should definitely drop the shootout and let games end in ties.


Champaign, Il.: Does the acquisition of Albright mean DC will change formations any time soon, especially when Moreno and Etcheverry return? Any chance the team could move to three forwards?

Steven Goff: Three forwards is a possibility, but that might expose United's midfield and defense in a season when the club has had trouble stopping counterattacks.


Alexandria, Va.: Who do you think are the most overrated and underrated player on the D.C. United and in MLS?

Steven Goff: I wouldn't necessarily say Lassiter is overrated, but when he's not seeing the ball and scoring, he doesn't have much of an impact. Underrated? Maybe Sonora and Wood.


Burke, Va.: Covering D.C. United, do you see any noticeable difference in the way Rongen coaches the club as opposed to Arena's methods? Nobody seems to be complaining and the club is still the strongest in the league.

Steven Goff: Because of my schedule, I attend practice only once or twice a week, so it's hard for me to compare. However, the players seem to like Rongen and respect his coaching style and abilities.


Fairfax, Va.: Looking into your crystal ball, any predictions for the second half of the season? Does United go out and win it all in the end? How do these trades work out?

Steven Goff: United will finish first, but may have more trouble than usual in the playoffs. The Eastern Conference isn't nearly as good as the Western, but New England or Tampa Bay could cause problems in the first round of the playoffs and Columbus is sure to be a threat in the conference finals. As for the championship game, it depends who United plays. Colorado, Dallas, LA and Chicago would all give them a difficult match.
That's all for this time. Thanks for your questions. Feel free to contact me directly at goffs@washpost.com


© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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