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Where is D.C. United headed?
That question hangs over a franchise with a trophy case unmatched by any team in Major League Soccer. Two straight seasons of missed playoffs, a vacant head coaching post and a handful of retired, aging or soon-to-be-leaving stars has D.C. facing an off-season of uncertainty D.C. fans just aren't accustomed to.
I wrote a piece on the subject for ESPN.com this weekend, and while the piece might ruffle some feathers in D.C., it was meant more as an open question than an indictment of the club. Is D.C. United really still a powerful club in MLS, or is it a team in transition and in jeopardy of falling into mediocrity?
It's tough to criticize D.C. too much considering even the team's fairly recent success, with two Supporter's Shields and a U.S. Open Cup title in the past four years. That haul would have fans of many MLS teams gushing, but the playoff failures and inconsistent play over the years has taken some of the tarnish off a club once considered a team to be feared.
D.C. United showed some flashes last year, and the truth is the team has almost always found a way to play attractive attacking soccer, even if defensive weaknesses and a recent poor track record of effective long-term signings have softened the team. With Luciano Emilio likely departing, Ben Olsen retiring and Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez both getting up there in age, it is anyone's guess just what kind of team D.C. United's new head coach will inherit when he is finally hired.
It certainly isn't fair to measure D.C. United by the impossible standard the club set a decade ago, but even by today's MLS standards, D.C. United has fallen a few notches from league power and there's no guarantee the club will be a power again in the immediate future.
Major League Soccer's blog, MLS Insider, revealed last week that Akron forward Teal Bunburyhad signed with MLS as a Generation adidas player. It isn't exactly a shock considering Bunbury was one of the top five players targeted by MLS to sign such deals. While he failed to score in the College Cup, Bunbury still has the tools as a forward to make him a safe bet to be taken in the Top Three picks in next months MLS Draft.
Bunbury is set to become the first son of an MLS player to play in MLS, which should make us all field just a bit old, but that connection could also impact where Bunbury goes in the draft. Bunbury's father, Alex, was teammates with Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes and Toronto FC Director of Soccer Mo Johnston. He also played on the Canadian national team with San Jose head coach Frank Yallop. With each of those three teams needing forward help, don't be shocked to see one of them trading up to grab the talented striker. That is assuming Philadelphia doesn't stand pat and grab him with the No. 1 overall pick.
DaMarcus Beasley's recent hot streak has U.S. fans excited about the possibility that Beasley could be returning to his best form just in time for the 2010 World Cup. We're still six months out, but the signs are promising to say the least.
With two years having passed since he had knee surgery, Beasley looks to be healthy and confident for the first time since tearing a knee ligament in Champions League play. As it stands right now, I can't imagine Beasley not making the U.S. World Cup team, and can definitely see him starting if he keeps up the playing time and confident form.
Where might Beasley play? He's looked good on the right wing for Rangers, and could be the player who allows Clint Dempsey to move to the forward position. He could also push Jozy Altidore out of the starting lineup if Bob Bradley ever decides to tinker with a potential forward line of Dempsey and Landon Donovan. it's still way too early to seriously consider what Bradley might do come this summer, but the fact that Beasley's return to form is allowing for such speculation is an encouraging sign for American fans.
A round of applause has to go out to FC Barcelona for winning its sixth, yes, SIXTH trophy of the year. UEFA Champions League, La Liga, Copa Del Rey, European Supercup, Spanish SuperCup and the Club World Cup have all been added to the trophy case. When you consider that Barcelona stalwarts Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyolalso won the 2008 European Championships with Spain, it makes their run over the course of the last year and a have truly mind-boggling. It should also be noted that the only team to eliminate Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol from a tournament since Euro 2008 is the U.S. national team, which did so by upsetting Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals.
Lastly, as you know, the 2010 MLS Combine will be taking place next month in Florida as the most of the best draft eligible players will play in an effort to impress MLS coaches ahead of the MLS Draft. One of those prospects is a bit of a celebrity in his own right. That player is Conor Chinn of the University of San Francisco.
What? The name doesn't ring a bell? Well, this commercial should help your memory:
Yes, as far as we can tell, the same Conor who we all remember for being "Nationally Ranked" is now going to be playing with the nation's best players and trying to realize his dreams of being a pro player. No word on whether the kid who nearly gets run over in the commercial also earned an invite.
What do you think of these topics? Are you starting to wonder if D.C. United will ever be a league power again? Hoping your team drafts Bunbury? Did you buy a Star Kick?
Share your thoughts below.