WASHINGTON – Exits and upgrades are to be expected from a team that struggles to the extent that D.C. United did in 2010. But Monday’s announcement that striker Danny Allsopp is leaving the club by mutual consent, while not surprising, underlines the extent of the overhaul taking place along the DC front line this offseason.
United marked legendary striker Jaime Moreno out of their 2011 plans several months ago, and Allsopp’s odds of staying in DC ebbed away down the stretch as it became clear that the Australian’s offensive production would not catch up to the club’s expectations.
A year ago, Allsopp was signed to play the “tip of the spear” for a United attack which, for years, had created far more chances than it finished, especially given the streaky tendencies of former league MVP Luciano Emilio. Allsopp’s size and strength also made him well-suited for leading the line and linking play.
But the well-traveled Aussie couldn’t seem to win former coach Curt Onalfo’s confidence in the early going and his nose for goal never really got attuned in MLS, though his prospects also suffered amid the team’s general malaise.
After more than five years of prolific offense, goals became a rare commodity for the Black-and-Red, who often had to play from behind due to mistakes elsewhere.
“We need a 15-goal guy,” noted interim head coach Ben Olsen last week. “We need a 10-goal guy. And we didn’t have that this year. I think we created a fair amount of opportunities, but the final third stuff wasn’t good enough and sometimes when that happens, the defensive lapses are amplified.”So for now, only two out-and-out strikers (Adam Cristman and Pablo Hernández) remain on the team’s current roster, though that will surely change in the months ahead when general manager Dave Kasper & Co. make headway in their latest hunt for a proven goal-scorer.
A true front-runner is needed. Hernández, who is signed on loan from Uruguay’s Club Defensor Sporting until mid-July, prefers to drop deep to link with the midfield and has yet to score in league play despite his obvious talent.
United have typically looked abroad for that type of personnel. While that remains an options, it seems this time they are inclined to find a proven MLS scorer, someone capable of providing leadership as well as quality.
“We’re looking closely in the league,” acknowledged Kasper earlier this month. “We’re having a lot of conversations now within the league. We’re also well underway in identifying players from outside. We’re going to take our time in the next four to six weeks and analyze what we have, and options to make us better.”Kasper and his colleagues are well aware that such players are prized commodities throughout the league. Juan Pablo Angel is the most notable potential catch this offseason and, given his personality, skills set and stated desire to remain on the East Coast, the soon-to-be-former New York Red Bull would seem to be a near-perfect fit for DC.
Reports suggested that United was one of several clubs to inquire about the Colombian earlier this year, but Kasper refused to be drawn on the topic.
“I don’t want to comment on any rumors that are out there,” said Kasper. “Certainly we know what kind of player Juan Pablo is. We don’t want to comment on speculation whether or not, at the right time, he’s a guy that we’d be interested in or not.”
DC have ample room under the salary cap, yet with Branko Boskovic already on the books for 2011, the Black-and-Red have admitted that their financial situation makes a second Designated Player signing unlikely.
Making a play for the top striker on the market this winter, however, would mark a pivotal step towards the dramatic turnaround that United and their fans crave.