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Digging into the D.C. United situation … and wondering about Dave Kasper’s role in the failures


Coaches lose their jobs all the time, and most “get it.” They may not like it, there may have been mitigating circumstances and there may be blame to share … but at the end of the day they are in a “results business,” and they understand being accountable for the bottom line.

When the Ws and the Ls land in unlovely and improper proportions, the manager gets kicked to the curb.

Then again, I’m looking at D.C. United and wondering why the accountability doesn’t seem to migrate upward, into the front office, over manager Ben Olsen’s head? Because D.C. United has been mostly down in the dumps for a long, long time. Only, the accountability factor doesn’t seem to be in effect for GM Dave Kasper, the architect of this failed roster.

This is from Kasper’s bio page:  “Dave Kasper joined D.C. United in 2002 and has been instrumental in building a deep, young, and very talented roster at D.C. United that will reap benefits in the long-term.”

That sound like the team you see today at RFK Stadium, the one dead last in our weekly rankings, speeding toward a league record for offensive ineptitude?

The team’s significant offensive off-season signings were Marcos Sanchez, an aging Carlos Ruiz and Brazilian young designated player Rafael – and all have been pretty dismal failures. They have combined for one goal and no assists. Throw in Rafael Augusto, signed late last year, and that total increases to … no, wait … it doesn’t increase one bit. Still, one goal and no assists.

(MORE: Ben Olsen’s complaints ring hollow)

That one goal, by the way, was from Rafael, an ostensibly promising signing that worked out so well the club the club released him last week. United didn’t help itself here by breathlessly hyping the anonymous 20-year-old as a “major signing.”

Speaking of failed attackers around RFK, should we talk one more time about Lionard Pajoy? Or Hamdi Salihi? Or Branko Boskovic? Perhaps former club president Kevin Payne had bigger paw prints on those major boo-boos, but again, the accountability thing.

The back line at RFK is a big bag of average or worse. Canadian international Dejan Jakovic is passable as a second center back, one who can be serviceable when paired with an A-list central defender. But to go into the season with Jakovic and Brandon McDonald as your starting center backs? Someone needs to be accountable for that one.

Everyone loves Bill Hamid’s big saves. But he’s still young and he still makes mistakes. How many points might have been saved over the last three years with an older, wiser hand in goal, one that allowed Hamid to apprentice and come along slower?

source: Getty Images

We could go on. Suffice to say, up and down the lineup, there’s just is not enough to like. A big run late last year provided some false promise. But that was after Dwayne De Rosario was hurt and the team reshaped into a bunch of grinders who could do the business with 1-0 wins. Once De Rosario got back into the lineup, a year older, that identity was lost.

Isn’t that a GM’s job to see that? Isn’t it Kasper’s job to look at the roster and understand how many Ws can realistically be squeezed out of that bad boy? Shouldn’t someone be accountable?

Here’s what I see happening sooner or later: Olsen (pictured at right) will lose his job. A 2-12-3 record is likely to get worse in about 30 hours when United visits Seattle, and eventually the mark will just be too ugly to stomach.

And if Olsen does lose his job, we’ll be left with a huge mystery – because we still won’t know if Olsen is a good coach. What a shame that will be.

Unless he was making the major personnel decisions, then Olsen was saddled with a team that never had much of a chance at real success.

Klinsmann side-steps blame, calls USA-Mexico one of world’s best rivalries

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT
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The rivalry between the national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico is one of the fiercest and most unique of its kind in the world of sports. Anyone who’s participated in, or simply attended, a competitive fixture between the two sides will immediately attest to that.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Speaking to FIFA.com ahead of Saturday’s clash against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, it’s quite interesting to hear current USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann describe the rivalry from his point of view, both before and after having coached in it on a number of occasions.

Before we get to that, though, Klinsmann had a bit more blame side step regarding his side’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, the USMNT’s worst-ever showing at the tournament for CONCACAF nations.

Q: What did you learn from this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, where you lost to Jamaica in the semi-finals?

A: There were so many things that happened in the tournament and decisions that were made that affected the outcome. It was difficult for the players to know what to expect. For Mexico and for Panama it was the same thing. The lesson is that you just have to roll with it and try to control the things you can.

What’s the no. 1 thing players can’t control? Who gets called into the team/plays in the games.

What was the no. 1 problem for the USMNT at this summer’s Gold Cup? Who got called up/played game after game despite performing very poorly. Ultimately, it’s what undid them in the semifinals and third-place game.

Just once — once — would it hurt Klinsmann to answer a question with an “I,” or “me,” or even “we?” The question was “What did you learn,” yet the answer always come back to “the players,” or “they,” or “them.” At this point, Klinsmann either believes he’s infallible, or he’s simply trying to see how many ridiculous statements he can get away with.

Q: You’ve been in the top US job for almost five years now and you’ve met Mexico many times. How would you define the rivalry between these countries on the pitch? Can you compare it with others you’ve experienced?

A: The USA-Mexico rivalry is one of the greats in world football. For me, it compares to Germany-Holland in terms of the intensity and emotion it brings out in the fans. As USA coach, it was a learning curve to understand how much this rivalry means to our fans. We had won some games against big nations, but the reaction from everyone to when we went down to [Estadio] Azteca and beat Mexico there for the first time was just amazing.

Q: What makes the rivalry unique?

A: What is unique is that there are so many Mexican-Americans living in the United States, so the rivalry crosses borders. We have seen many times in these last years that younger Mexican-Americans will wear a Mexico jersey to our game, and when we start doing well they take it off and have a U.S. jersey underneath! More and more they’re supporting us, and we hope to continue to win them over.

Klinsmann gets this one absolutely right. With the two countries situated right next to each other, the aforementioned immigration of so many Mexican soccer fans into the U.S., and the classic battles between the two sides over the years, USA-Mexico not only feels amazing to get one over on your rivals, but perhaps more than anything it’s avoiding that feeling of defeat, of embarrassment, of being taunted and haunted for days, weeks, months and sometimes years, that makes beating the old foe so satisfying.

Ozil, Coquelin: Arsenal can win the title this season

Mesut Ozil, Arsenal FC
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I suppose, in theory, that any Premier League club that fields a team could win the league title for a given season, so the above headline could have been written in reference to any one of 20 teams a few short weeks ago.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Fast forward eight rounds of fixtures to the present day, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer with every passing week that it’s a three-horse race — Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United, who currently sit 1-2-3 atop the league — for the 2015-16 Premier League title.

So — and stick with me for just a second — why not Arsenal? [The crowd gasps loudly] Arsenal midfielders Mesut Ozil and Francis Coquelin believe the Gunners have what it takes to win the title this year, so why doesn’t anyone else?

Ozil and Coquelin, on Arsenal’s progression to title contenders — quotes from the Guardian:

Ozil: “We have a great team with many world-class players. Our goal is to win the Premier League and I think that this season it’s possible to do it, if we all stay healthy. But the season is long.”

Ozil: “I didn’t expect [Bayern Munich] to beat Dortmund 5-1. Their recent results show they are simply in great shape … But our victory against Manchester United was a sign: when we play and want it 100 percent, then we can beat Bayern.

“We are playing at home. Although we have respect for them, we don’t have any fear. We know how to score goals against Bayern and we can be successful. It will be difficult – but we have the potential to beat any team.”

Coquelin: “We proved a lot of people wrong. Inside the dressing room we knew we could do good things this season. We knew we could be contenders, but obviously we have to be consistent.

“We are getting stronger against the big teams. We beat City last season, now United. It’s all about consistency. The league is getting tougher, so we need to be getting results every week … We knew we had to put it right after Olympiakos and that’s what we’ve done.”

Coquelin is absolutely right — no one expected Arsenal to throttle Man United the way they did on Sunday. The Gunners acquitted themselves quite well, though it should be mentioned that Louis Van Gaal set up United to fail miserably with the immobile midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger against a quick, dynamic Arsenal unit.

[ MORE: “Super computer” predicts final Premier League standings ]

That’s not meant to take anything away from Arsenal’s scintillating performance, because they did exactly what they should be doing against a poorly planned side — that’s not always been the case for Arsenal against top teams. The Gunners will play hosts to Man City on Dec. 19; perhaps we’ll better be able to dub them contenders or pretenders based their showing that day.