The team has missed the playoffs for two years in a row and Goal.com's Steven Streff says some big changes are overdue.Some teams might have considered reaching a cup final a good achievement for a season. One of the teams that would not is D.C. United, who now can enjoy the next couple of months pondering how they managed to miss Major League Soccer's playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Sure, United reached the US Open Cup Final. But as their own front office proved with the advertisements before the final, it's just not good enough to reach the final. But that was all that D.C. managed this season, which will surely lead to some changes come this offseason.
What Went Wrong?
For United fans, it's hard to classify anything this season as a success. There was the near miss with the US Open Cup, but it was exactly that -- a miss. Instead of bringing home the team's 13th trophy, United had to watch new boys Seattle celebrate on their home field.
D.C. enjoyed more success in the Champions' League group stages this year, and finished with ten points from 6 matches, usually enough to secure passage through. As it stands, that was not enough, and Marathon got the second qualifying spot ahead of them. And in D.C., being close is just not good enough.
The most important aspect of the season was a failure for United. For the second consecutive season, the team missed out on the playoffs. For the second consecutive season, the team had the chance to get into the playoffs with a win on the road. Both times, United came up short in the end.
If fans are looking for a reason why the team might have missed the playoffs, look no further than here. The following is a list of games in which United eventually dropped points in games where they held the lead at some point:
Los Angeles, Chicago, Real Salt Lake, Kansas City (2X), Toronto, New England, Seattle, Columbus, San Jose (2X),
11 times in 30 matches United failed to hold onto a lead, which led them to drop points.
What Went Right?
The emergence of two young stars in the making is a positive for the squad. Rodney Wallace and Chris Pontius will be forces in this league for a long time coming. Both proved worthy beyond their years, and the outlook appears to be brighter for both. Expectations will be high for the pair next season due to their performances this season, but United will look to lean more on them for good reason. Also, the arrival of Dejan Jakovic was a transfer that actually worked out well for United. Unlike Gonzalo Martinez and Gonzalo Peralta from last offseason, Jakovic exuded technique and composure in the back line, and will look to anchor the back line again next season for United.
What Should the Team Do Differently?
Let go. It's tough, as no one ever wants to say goodbye to club legends. But in the case of United, replacing Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez might just be the step forward that the club needs to make. At times during the season, United struggled offensively, especially at home, where teams looked to shut down United by playing more men behind the ball. With the ages of Gomez and Moreno catching up to them, it might be time for United to move forward, and look to replace the pair. D.C. already have Pontius and Quaranta, but a bit more depth would be required if the team is looking to have a good run next year.
United are also in desperate need of a goalscorer. Luciano Emilio is still with the club, but his production the past two years was well off his Golden-Boot-winning performance in 2007. Whilst United were able to create the chances for goals this season, Emilio just failed to finish them off. A proven goal scorer just might be what United needs to get over the hump and into the playoffs.
What Changes Will Be Made?
The first and obvious change has already been made, as coach Tom Soehn will not be returning. In his three years at the helm in D.C., he guided the side to two trophies, with a Supporters' Shield in 2007, and the U.S. Open Cup in 2008. But in '08 and '09, he missed the playoffs, a big no-no in D.C. Personnel changes to the squad might be put on hold until a new gaffer is found, but look for that new guy to make an immediate impact on the squad by getting rid of some players, while bringing in a few of his own.
As much as it might hurt the fans, it might just be within the realm of possibility that both Gomez and Moreno are gone after this season. The game seems to be beyond them at certain times, and their fitness levels lacked enough to question whether they warrant a precious roster spot. A new coach might just come in and decide that neither is needed anymore.
What Will Happen Next Year?
In the wacky world of MLS parity, it's always tough to tell what will happen from one season to the next. That gets a bit more difficult when a coaching change comes into play as well. As with the past two years, United should be able to fight for a playoff spot. The question becomes whether the new coach and potentially new players will bring enough to change to get United to that next level. Another year of missing the playoffs has made the fans a bit antsy, and so the pressure will be high next year for immediate results.
Away from the field (in a sense), expect to here some more dealings in the way of a new stadium for D.C. United. But in the end, expect to hear those all end in disappointment, as United appear no closer to a new stadium than they ever have in the past.
Steven Streff, Goal.com
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