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

Jul 2, 2013, 6:31 PM EDT

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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.

  1. talgrath - Jul 2, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    I’d put 100% of this on Kasper (or the owners, if they won’t let him go after talent), what Ben Olsen did last year was nothing short of astonishing. The team Olsen has been handed is poor in overall talent, with a few bright spots here and there; but some of those bright spots (such as De Rosario) are older players that are frequently injured. Ultimately, Olsen has done the very best he can with a very subpar team, he will lose his job at United, but I think that is a blessing in disguise; a smart and savvy owner with a team on the fringes should hire Olsen, I think he would do very well with a good or above average squad.

  2. rswestbrook - Jul 2, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    Amen, Steve. I feel like I am watching the film ‘Major League’ with DCU.

    • mvktr2 - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:44 PM

      ^made me LOL, well played

  3. mvktr2 - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    Good stuff Steve.

  4. franco7788 - Jul 3, 2013 at 2:14 AM

    Excellent well timed post Steve. I was just perusing the DCU forum on BS when I saw a discussion of this.

    What you left out is how Kasper has had TWO head coaches fired in the past five years and Ben Olsen is probably close to being on the verge of number 3. DCU fans and other MLS fans and writers probably have a decent idea of Olsen’s shortcomings(sticking with Pajoy *cough cough*) but one would hope Kasper would be held accountable for the subpar DCU roster and sh1t signings he seems to make year in year out. Hopefully the DCU owners would get rid of Kasper before getting rid of Olsen, or if getting rid of Olsen, send Kasper packing as well. It would be just unfair to leave the GM that has presided over consistently subpar rosters(despite Olsen’s impressive work last season) in place when he has been the singular constant in their issues over the past few seasons.

    Good timing for your post.

  5. thetomi - Jul 3, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    I only wish there was some way Kasper could go, while Olsen stays. But alas I fear you are right.

  6. tackledummy1505 - Jul 4, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    I’m so glad D.C. took Pajoy away from us (Philadelphia Union) and gave us Danny Cruz. Pajoy is a cancer, makes bad decisions, sometimes plays defense, and halts a fast breakout on offense. Definitely not Ben Olsen’s fault for D.C.’s misery. I would like to add that the MLS need steady and better GMs. Even most of the moves the Union make are beyond belief or just stupid. Like if any of the Union’s center backs go down, they have no one to replace them. Not to mention Okugo isn’t a real center back and is the reason why the Union has lost some games and settled for ties on other games. I want to give Okugo credit but I can’t on the defensive side, only on offense does he serve a strong presence.

  7. udine98 - Sep 3, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    You all make it sound so simple. A results oriented business? Yes. The GM (Kasper), finally out of KP (Kevin Paynes) shadow and authority should be given time to be the prime decision maker. Identify & understand the facts folks.

    Payne made or rubber stamped many decisons up to his departure. Having no stadium and declining revenue makes it real tough to attract top quality players. Ben needs time…good player does not equate to great coach, or atv least not in two years!

    Finally, obviously Olsen has (probably) major input into roster needs and ultimate purchases or releases. In addition, the books have to balance. This job is tough enough when you have all the pieces, resources and authority (freedom) necessary to construct a team and strong internal organization, let alone when you have very little to none of it.

    Kasper has made some fantastic moves such as signing DeRo and even Silva from TFC (easily their most entertaining player) since KP left (still there when DeRo signed). Kasper is bright, calm, rationale and passionate about this franchise, under the most diffocult of circumstances. No, he’s not my relative, but understanding the futbol world a little bit, ownership should focus on giving him the resources and time to illustarte his soccer savy.

    Then, we can measure the results, practically, sensibly and having given Ben an extra two years to gain the wisdom necessary to get the best out of your squad.

    Lets think alittle before we speak folks. Hey Steve (Davis), I understand your question posed in the article, but it is far too narrow in scope of thought and detail.

    Vamos DC

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