I caught up with D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper today at RFK Stadium. In the wake of a brutal MLS season, personnel issues will rise to the forefront again soon, and as the point man for player movement, Kasper will have primary responsibility for turning the club’s fortunes this winter. Like any general manager, he was not willing to go into great detail about the club’s preliminary plans, but he did touch on several off-season topics.
How does DCU primary investor Erick Thohir taking a majority stake in Inter Milan impact United’s relationship with the Italian club?
“I am sure in the coming months we will have those discussions. I wouldn’t anticipate anything [of a formal relationship] in the short term.”
Thohir and Jason Levien suggested in their public comments, however, an informal alliance or agreement. How would that translate?
“It’s just too early to say.”
At the very least, a summer friendly between the sides would make sense, right?
“I would think so.”
Where do things stand with United’s postseason tour in Indonesia?
“It’s pretty close to being finalized. Roughly the first 10 days of December. Two matches against clubs. We would look to take probably 22 players.”
Even players who are not in next year’s plans would travel?
“Yes. They are under contract until the end of December.”
The players will receive additional payments for attending a postseason tour, correct?
“Yes. We are obligated, per the collective bargaining agreement, to pay players per-game appearances. The players will split the pool of money. It’s similar to how the bonus structure works for winning the Open Cup.”
Would Indonesian midfielder Syamsir Alam play for you or against you?
“To be determined. Right now he is with Indonesia’s under-23 program, so we’ll find out in the coming weeks about his availability. If he plays, he would play for us.”
When are you looking to reconvene as a group in Washington for the start of training camp?
“We are waiting for the league to give the date when we can open camp. It’s roughly six weeks before the opener.”
If you are in Charleston for the Carolina Challenge Cup through March 1, presumably the MLS opening weekend will fall March 8-9?
“That is my guess.”
With the season winding down, have you begun to talk to players about their future with the club?
“When the season ends next Sunday, players will have a week off and then we will make final decisions through the month of November. I’m sure we will have all of our player meetings before we go to Indonesia.”
Are any regulars out of contract and, if you wanted to retain them, require fresh negotiations?
“No one is out of contract. We will have to deal with [club-held] option years and re-working contracts.”
Have you begun internal discussions about the offseason direction?
“We have, and for quite some time. A lot of it is related to scouting, player availability via trade, the re-entry draft. There will be a lot of moving parts.”
Will the investment trio have a role in those discussions or will this involve strictly you and the coaching staff?
“We will meet internally and then present the plan to ownership, but we are in constant communication.”
By advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League and by finishing last in MLS, the league will provide additional allocation funds, correct?
“Yes, we will have more to work with.”
Also because you finished last, United will have the first pick on all player acquisition platforms?
“Barring any competition rule changes, we will be first in both re-entry drafts, have the first pick in the regular draft and first in the allocation order. As soon as MLS Cup is over, the allocation process starts. Discussions can start at any time.”
Have you begun exploring who might be available via allocation?
“We have begun researching and discussing possibilities. It’s not just the full U.S. national team players; it’s guys on the fringe of the national team or anyone regardless of nationality who has been sold for a transfer fee and wants to return. There are quite a few out there.”
The allocation order applies to only those returning U.S. national team players whose rights are no longer held by MLS clubs and are not signed as designated players (i.e. Clint Dempsey joining Seattle this summer without exposure to the allocation order).
So for instance, New England retained defender Michael Parkhurst‘s rights because the Revolution did not receive a transfer fee; he left as a free agent. I bring him up because he rarely plays for Augsburg in Germany and could return at some point. Conversely, Toronto was compensated for Maurice Edu‘s departure, making him available through allocation should he decide to return. Edu is not in the mix at Stoke City in England.
Oguchi Onyewu would also be exposed to allocation if he decided to sign with MLS — he is currently a free agent seeking a European contract and has never played in MLS. Because injuries have limited his time in recent seasons abroad, United probably wouldn’t cash in the top allocation slot on him.
In 2013, United used its allocation pick early in the year on Guatemalan forward Carlos Ruiz.
United’s selections in the re-entry drafts:
2010: Joseph Ngwenya (Houston) and Josh Wolff (Kansas City)
2012: John Thorrington (Vancouver)
United’s selections with the first overall pick in the January draft:
1999: Jason Moore, Virginia
2003: Alecko Eskandarian, Virginia
2004: Freddy Adu, U.S. under-17 residency