With DC United players reporting for camp last Friday, the promise of the new season is upon us. Nowhere is a new season more welcome than in Washington DC, where our once-mighty club had the worst professional season (2010) of any club in MLS. United finished last in the league, scored the fewest goals in the league, had no hope for a stadium deal and a head coach who was never given a fighting chance to do well.
The lead-up to the 2011 season started with a bang, as Ben Olsen was officially handed the reins, and led the club through an extremely busy off-season. The off-season included the unexpected arrival of midfielder Dax McCarty from Dallas FC and despite bidding farewell to many players; DC United is unlikely to miss any of them except perhaps Rodney Wallace. I believe this team will do very well this season, specifically because coach Ben will fashion this team in his own never-give-up image.
There are on-the-field questions, but perhaps most intriguing among them is whether the team will stay healthy this year. Accidents happen and players get injured, but is DC addressing the preventative aspects of training? Who is the strength and conditioning coach? It is clear that the team struggled to overcome fatigue last season and that most of the goals DC gave up were toward the end of the game. Then the team’s injuries started to increase, possibly as players’ training schedules were adjusted to compensate for insufficient conditioning in preseason.
Finally, this season will also bring an added off-field dimension, as attention to a stadium deal is renewed. A stadium deal at Poplar Point in ward 8 collapsed in 2009 under the weight of the financial crisis and never recovered. Now the issue has resurfaced after the City of Baltimore released a feasibility study, which concluded that a new mixed-use stadium would generate $3-4 million per year in revenue and create several hundred jobs. Within a few weeks, the issue has already revived and info has come to light that there are at least two sites that are up for discussion. Add to this the arrival less than a month ago of a new mayor in Vincent Gray, with some experience stemming from the Nationals Stadium, and you now have all the necessary ingredients for off-field stadium drama.