Despite threatening to finish with the worst record in MLS history, D.C. United is probably going to retain both Coach Ben Olsen and General Manager Dave Kasper next season, sources said Tuesday night.
Management will not make a final decision until after the season, but those close to the situation say the three-man investment group is strongly leaning toward keeping both figures.
One year after advancing to the Eastern Conference finals, United (3-22-6) has the lowest point total in the 19-team league and needs to win two of the last three matches to avoid setting or tying the league record for fewest victories (four).
Olsen and Kasper have guaranteed contracts next year, although a source said those financial commitments will not figure into the decisions.
Jason Levien, who speaks on behalf of fellow investors Erick Thohir and Will Chang, said he did not want to comment about the status of the technical staff.
Olsen last week guided United to the U.S. Open Cup title, a secondary pursuit to the MLS campaign but a feat that earned a berth in international competition next year. On a broader scale, a source said, management credits him with keeping the squad together amid extreme duress and continuing to grow as a young head coach.
Olsen, 36, said he has not spoken to leadership about his status.
“I have a contract through next year, so I am prepared to come back and continue what I am doing,” said Olsen, who despite his age, is the longest-serving head coach in United’s 18-season history (three-plus years).
“It’s been a perfect storm, the year we’ve been through. There is still a group here that, if we get some new pieces, has a good chance to be a good side. We just have to make good decisions.”
Kasper is in his 12th season with United but first with primary decision-making responsibilities following longtime executive Kevin Payne’s departure last fall. Several moves failed badly: Forward Rafael and midfielder Marcos Sanchez were released in midseason, and forward Carlos Ruiz has played sparingly.
United’s greatest disappointment was with the returning regulars, such as Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon, Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic. McDonald was traded in July and the others fell well short of expectations.
At a July meeting in New York, as United’s downward spiral was accelerating, Olsen and Kasper were asked to outline their strategy to the investment group. They said they would focus on young players for the remainder of the year, build a foundation and look for established help this offseason.
The investors were satisfied with the plan, a source said. This summer the club acquired Luis Silva, 24; Jared Jeffrey, 23; and Conor Doyle, 21.
“There is blame to be shared all around for the pain we endured this year,” said Levien, who also is overseeing United’s efforts to finalize a stadium at Buzzard Point in Southwest.
“We have some real tools to use this offseason to get better [the first overall pick in the college and re-entry drafts, plus financial considerations to sign players], and we intend to use them wisely and carefully. . . . There is a lot of pressure on all of us because we need to have a much better season.”
Jakovic and John Thorrington will miss the last three matches with injuries.
Jakovic (17 starts) suffered a strained adductor in the Open Cup final at Real Salt Lake last Tuesday. He was not in uniform for Friday’s regular season loss to Chicago and withdrew from a nine-day Canadian national team assignment in London.
Thorrington (12 starts) suffered a calf injury late in the first half Friday.
United will conclude the season with home matches against Philadelphia (this Saturday) and Houston (Oct. 27) and a visit to Kansas City (Oct. 18).
Defender Ethan White is sidelined with a knee ailment that flared up last week. He seems doubtful this weekend.