D.C. United’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad regular season will reach a merciful end Sunday with either the fewest victories in MLS history or a share of the league’s dubious mark. Are sweeping changes in store? A look at six pressing personnel issues entering the offseason . . .
The Coach: From initial indications, Ben Olsen will return for his fourth full season, the longest tenure in United annals. Management is flummoxed by the 3-23-7 record, particularly after the club posted the third-most points in the league last year with almost the same core of players. Leadership was encouraged, however, by Olsen’s resilience, in the face of mounting adversity, to win the U.S. Open Cup and prevent months of losing to fester and eat away at the club’s soul.
Chances of returning: 90 percent.
The General Manager: United will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. Given the number of postseason berths available in MLS and the flexibility of teams to reinvent themselves each winter, it’s almost implausible to fall short so often. Coaches have come and gone. Players have come and gone. The GM has remained the same.
The question ownership must ask itself: Do we trust Dave Kasper with the first pick on all of MLS’s acquisition platforms this winter and the additional roster funds awarded for missing the playoffs and qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League? If the answer is yes, he will stay for a 13th season.
Chances of returning: 75 percent.
The Captain: The guaranteed portion of Dwayne De Rosario’s contract, worth more than $600,000 annually, expires after this season. United holds an option to retain him at the same rate. There is no way that occurs.
His options: Embrace a secondary role on a young D.C. team and serve as a mentor, or look to join a mature squad equipped to contend for a championship right away. Either way, in order to remain in MLS, he will have to accept a substantial pay cut.
Chances of returning: 50 percent.
The Defender: When the season began, the least of United’s concerns was the tandem of center backs, Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic. By midseason, with the defense breaking down regularly, they were perhaps the club’s greatest disappointment.
Exacerbating the situation was a combined base income of $500,000 — one-sixth of the salary cap. United could have gotten by with one of them falling out of form, but not both. McDonald was dealt to Real Salt Lake. Jakovic’s contract is guaranteed next year.
Chances of returning: 70 percent.
The Veterans: Forwards Lionard Pajoy ($190,000 base) and Carlos Ruiz ($75,000) combined for two goals in 33 league appearances. Midfielders Marcelo Saragosa ($110,000) was saddled by injuries and age, and Sainey Nyassi ($88,000) didn’t add much after signing in May. Midfielder John Thorrington ($150,000) was pretty good when healthy and provided leadership and experience but, for a part-time starter, earned a lot of cash. Defender Daniel Woolard ($100,000) started most of the year at left back or center back. Defender James Riley ($140,000) was in and out of the lineup. Midfielder Lewis Neal ($90,000) was the unlikely Open Cup hero.
Chances of returning (in order): 0 percent, 0, 15, 10, 50, 80, 50, 90.
The Loaner: Forward Conor Doyle, 22, arrived in mid-July from Derby County in England’s second tier. He has displayed decent attacking qualities, posting two goals and an assist in 13 league appearances. As part of the temporary acquisition agreement, the clubs set a fee (undisclosed) for a permanent transfer. In the next few weeks, United will accept or decline. Without knowing the figure, it’s impossible to predict.
Chances of returning: 50 percent.