There’s a relatively unique story unfolding in the headquarters of DC United, where the club hopes its found a diamond in a very rough situation.
The Washington Post’s Steven Goff has the story on attacker Alhaji Kamara, a 22-year-old Sierra Leone international who is on board with the Black-and-Red despite a heart condition which caused UEFA to ban him from the playing field.
“We also looked at the heart muscle in the most detailed way possible – a heart MRI to look for scarring or any sign of problem related to this,” Taylor said. “We found none. We looked for past signs and potential for problem and found none.
“We’ve gone far beyond what is even the recommended evaluation. It’s all about wanting to be completely thorough.”
As Goff points out in his article, recent deaths on the field of play and the still-fresh retirement of Eddie Johnson will have heightened DC United’s concerns. Kamara deserves the right to work, and to make his decision based on sound advice, and UEFA thinks the on-field risk is too much. This is entertainment, and that’s a scary issue for a team to confront on match day.
So it turns out that Paul Hill, who was jailed as part of the Guildford Four, is a big DC United fan. He’s also the ex-husband of Courtney Kennedy, the daughter of RFK and Ethel Kennedy. The latter was set to have a visit with Papa Francisco, and a conduit was necessary given the magnitude of two of the world’s most powerful men in the same big city.
Through a quick turn-around jersey negotiated by a soccer supplier and DC general manager Dave Kasper, the jersey ended up with the Pope. Well, it ended up with a Papal aide, but we’re hoping it made its way to the man born Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
The biggest question was: What number do you give the Pope?” Kasper said.
The obvious choice was “1.”
“Any time you give a gift to an Argentine who likes soccer,” Kasper said, “it has to be 10.”
We’re trusting that current DCU No. 10 and Pope Francis’ country mate, Fabian Espindola, didn’t mind “giving up” his number for the day. A cool story, regardless of your faith. Let’s hope the Pope got to test it out.
Following its worst-to-first turnaround last season, D.C. United rewarded General Manager Dave Kasper with a multi-year contract extension, the club announced.
“Dave Kasper has demonstrated expertise building a deep and talented roster,” D.C. United co-owner Jason Levien told the official website. “His strong knowledge of the player market combined with the professional soccer operations culture he has helped to build has D.C. United well-positioned for future success. We are very pleased he will remain with the club, and we are deeply appreciative for his leadership.”
Kasper, in charge of personnel and player decisions since 2002 at the club, was also newly appointed vice president of soccer operations. His previous deal was set to expire in December of this year.
“This is where I want to be,” Kasper said. “This is my club and I’ve been blessed to be part of winning trophies here.”
Steven Goff of the Washington Post was the first to report the story yesterday. The club confirmed the appointment and new deal today. According to Goff, Kasper will now be in charge of a broader range of responsibilities, including those at the youth level and the club’s attempts to secure a partnership at the USL Pro level. The club has won five trophies under Kasper, including a title in 2004 to go along with two Supporters’ Shields and two US Open Cup titles.
The D.C. United rebuild continues with the acquisition of La Liga left back Cristian Fernandez Salas, who is sometimes referred to simply as Cristian.
The 28-year-old spent the last two seasons with Almeria of Spain’s top flight, where he scored six times in 36 matches. He’s known for his ability to get forward and has good size at 6-foot.
DCU’s defense will look markedly different in 2014 — as will the rest of the team, but I digress — aside from Chris Korb. Over the past few months, D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper has picked up Bobby Boswell from Houston, first-round draft pick Steve Birnbaum, Sean Franklin from Los Angeles and Nana Attakora from San Jose.
“We are pleased to be adding a left back with solid La Liga experience who is in the prime of his career,” Kasper said. “Cristian is very good at getting forward to join the attack and providing quality service. This move helps solidify our backline moving into the new season.”
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.”
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.
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?
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.