United Begins to Rebuild

Arnaud acquisition, Re-Entry process start of building team for 2014
by Peter Muller   |   Wednesday, December 11, 2013

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

D.C. United began to reconstruct their roster this week with the acquisition of midfielder Davy Arnaud from the Montreal Impact in exchange for an international roster slot.

The move is the first of many United is expected to make as they try to rebound from a disastrous 2013 Major League Soccer season.

Arnaud seems set to fill the role John Thorrington played for United this year – a grizzled veteran known for his leadership skills who can serve as a conduit on the field for DCU manager Ben Olsen and provide guidance to United’s crop of young players.

The next step in the rebuilding process will come Thursday afternoon when D.C. has the first selection in the MLS Re-Entry Draft process.  The club also holds the first pick in next year’s SuperDraft and has additional allocation money available for finishing last in MLS and for winning the 2013 U.S. Open Cup.

United’s management team chose to stick with General Manager Dave Kasper and Olsen despite the disappointment of 2013, deciding that they are the best people to make use of the resources available to rebuild.

Now it is time for Kasper and Olsen to prove that management made the right decision.

They have already made one big decision – to break ties with team captain Dwayne DeRosario, who was acquired in 2011 who went on to win the league MVP trophy that year. 

United’s brain trust determined that the youth movement they committed to this year – bringing in players like Luis Silva, Jared Jeffrey and Conor Doyle – left no room for an aging 35-year-old midfielder.

And on Monday it was revealed that United declined options on Thorrington and defenders Daniel Woolard and James Riley, along with midfielder Marcelo Saragosa and forward Carlos Ruiz.  United can still re-sign these players by 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday and remove them from the Re-Entry process.

Under the league rules, if United selects a player from the Re-Entry list they must be willing to pay him the salary he was contracted to receive in 2014 before being released by his club or, if the player is out of contract, make him a bona fide offer (whatever that means). 

But now they need to restock the roster with players who can make United a more competitive team next year, not only in Major League Soccer but in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament that D.C. qualified for by winning the U.S. Open Cup. 

And with the defense of their Open Cup title added to the mix, United needs to build a deep squad capable of playing 40 to 50 games next year and competing in each of the tournaments.

There are a number of big name players available to Kasper and Olsen via the re-entry draft but they will have to determine whether the price tags associated with those players are worth the investment.

One of the top priorities for D.C. this offseason is to sign an experienced, productive striker. With the first pick in the draft they could consider selecting Kenny Cooper, who was unable to reach a contract agreement with Dallas and thus is available in the draft.  In 2013 he made a guaranteed salary of $342,500 and may be in line for even more next year. 

But Cooper scored just 3 goals for Dallas this year in 25 league appearances, although he tallied 18 goals in 2012 while playing for the Red Bulls.  Does his track record make him worth the gamble at that price?

To shore up the defense, United might consider selecting former Columbus Crew defender Danny O’Rourke, who made $175,000 this year.  Or perhaps former United fullback Brandon Barklage who appeared in 45 league matches with the Red Bulls over last two years and earned just $72,000 in 2013.  They also could select former United defender Bobby Boswell, who is out of contract after playing 6 seasons with Houston.

The second stage of the Re-Entry Draft, which will take place next week, will allow teams to negotiate new contracts with players rather than commit to the existing deals players have.

For example, if no team selects Kenny Cooper on Thursday, United will have a second shot at him next week and will be in a position to negotiate a lower salary for him.

Beyond the two-stage re-entry process, United will have the first choice in January’s SuperDraft, which features players coming out of college. 

And United can look to sign foreign players with the additional allocation money they have available, although their recent track record on foreign signings has been poor.

The climb from the MLS basement will be a steep one for United but they cannot complain of lack of opportunities or resources. 

For Kasper and Olsen, they not only need to build a team that can compete next year but restore hope a fan base that weathered a dismal 2013.

NEXT UP: March 8 – D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew, RFK Stadium, Washinton, D.C. 7 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

Peter MULLER

Nationality:
USA
College:
Saint Mary's
Club Domestic:
DC United
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.
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