2010 in Review: D.C. United offseason checklist

Foundation is there for rebound, but United's chores are many

WASHINGON – After a long season, D.C. United’s to-do list this winter is substantial. But there’s only one way to go for MLS’ most decorated franchise, and there’s certainly hope for the future. But DC brass must hit the ground running to rebuild the team into a winner. Here’s United’s offseason checklist.

Find a head coach

A year ago, Curt Onalfo was touted as the perfect fit for DC, only to be fired after barely half a season. Interim boss Ben Olsen is seen as too green, so United are back at square one in the hunt for a seasoned, long-term leader, possibly from abroad. Rebuilding cannot commence in earnest until the choice is made.

Add charismatic leaders

United’s youth movement needs some guidance and support, as general manager Dave Kasper made clear at season’s end.

“I don’t think we ever really had the right balance of veteran players and young players on the field, for various reasons, a lot of which happened to be injury,” said Kasper, citing the likes of Olsen, Bryan Namoff and Marc Burch.

“The last two years we’ve lost some different kind of leaders on the field, big personalities. That’s something that we are focusing on in building our team for 2011, is finding some veteran players who can bring different kinds of leadership to the team and help the younger players grow.”

Acquire a proven goal-scorer

DC’s attack set several league records for offensive futility in 2010, in large part because the team usually failed to finish when chances were created. There’s talent on the wings, and Designated Player Branko Boskovic offers quality in the No. 10 role, but the club must find someone who can bulge the net consistently.

Sort out a defensive foundation

It’s one of the most important areas for any ambitious team, yet center back has been a revolving door at United for years now. Julius James and Dejan Jakovic have proved the most durable combination of the past two seasons, but club officials have repeatedly cited a desire to bring in other options. The new head coach may have to decide between continuity and competition.

Keep the academy pipeline flowing

Amid the overall disappointment of the past two seasons, United’s ability to find and groom local talent represents a remarkable success story. The club now has four academy products on the senior roster, three of whom arrived directly from youth level, including 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar. The system offers continuity, economic value and good community relations – and it needs to continue.

Make progress on the stadium front

United’s lengthy search for a new home does not directly affect results on the field, but it hangs heavy over the organization. The club’s fans have now suffered through three underachieving seasons and signs of hope for a nicer, newer venue in the future will go a long way to maintaining their optimism and energy. A lot may hinge on owner Will Chang’s efforts to find new investors.

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