DC's Lost Season

The thud you heard last night was DC United - the proud Old Standard Bearer (and standard setter) for Major League Soccers' first decade of existence - finally hitting rock bottom.

Having desperately clung to a one goal lead for the vast majority of their Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinal against Columbus - the very last thing the District of Columbia had left to play for in 2010 - they somehow coughed up a last minute goal to a central defender and then, since it looked like Columbus wasn't going to score in the overtime they went ahead and coughed up a PK two minutes from time.

Whereupon Cbus' short, funny looking old Argentine headed for the spot and the RFK faithful began searching for thier car keys. 37 years old or not, with a game on the line the guy is pure money.

With the worst regular season record in team history and, astonishingly, a real shot at surpassing the worst MLS record of all time, the Open Cup was the last thing that could have salvaged something out of a season from hell, a bright spot in the midst of a gloom the likes of which DC fans have never encountered.

Sort of makes Caleb Porters' decision to turn down that job seem pretty reasonable.

The saddest thing is that this season didn't have to be a lost, purposeless exercise.

No, I'm not going to get into a lot of obvious stuff here, like the fact that Kevin Payne and Dave Kaspar both need to find new employment, preferably not in the soccer business (unless they want to open a soccer supply store; there's good money in selling cleats and shinguards to the kiddies.)

Rather, I'm going to focus on one point, ie. the hiring of Curt Onolfo, which was both a symptom and a cause.

The team DC lost to last night brought in Sigi Schmid in 2006 and because of his reputation they gave him total control over the roster, which he proceeded to blow sky high. When he got done there were only three guys on the team who had been with the Crew the previous season.

And here's the thing: in his first year they lost more games than they had the previous year, a record which got Zippy the Pinhead fired.

The following year, same deal. Bad, badder, baddest.

But there was never any question of canning the Round Mound. He was a pro, he was brought in to fix things and, painful as it was, they let him do it his way.

And of course he won them the Cup in his third year.

Conversely, when Dave Checketts at RSL got tired of watching Dave Ellinger do a bad imitation of a soccer coach, he grabbed Jason Kreis off his bench and handed him the reins.

Now granted Kreis proceeded to join the Fine of the Week Club (it got so bad that Kreis was ordered to appear at MLS HQ for a one-day seminar on league rules and procedures) but nobody expected the guy to be able to hang up the jersey, put on a tie and lead a team to the playoffs and beyond.

And again, Ellinger aside, the team simply wasn't very good, but he and the they all sort of grew up together and, low and behold, a miracle happened in the Land of Saline Inland Waters.

Two different approaches, but the same result.

Onolfo, by contrast, wasn't a promising rookie and he wasn't successful at his last job (getting fired for suckitude is the first clue) and he wasn't given anything like control over his roster and he wasn't going to get either the benefit of the doubt based on past success or the time and patience you'd give a new guy.

Just win, baby. But don't ask me how.

I've never been a big Ben Olsen fan. Watching his teams beat up on yours all the time tends not to give you warm and cozy feelings.

But he's always been a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve - and sometimes pieces of other peoples' hearts as well, along with chunks of their spleens, livers and Achilles tendons - and he's going to need serious theraputic drugs (can you say Lithium?) to get through the next couple of months.

Maybe you give him the job - hopefully along with a bright, eager MLS-wise GM - and see what he can do in two or three years. Maybe you get back in touch with Richie Williams who, high-priced foreign talent aside, is proving to have a real eye for talent.

The bottom line is that DC came into the season with no hope at all of doing much of anything beyond exactly what it's done.

Astonishingly though, as bad as it's been they seem to have come up with two absolute gems from their academy, which was among the first and is still among the finest, in Hamid and Najar but it underlines the futility when you're bringing in kids who only need to shave once in a while to try and salvage what the grownups have blown.

It's time to clean house in DC. Blow the thing up and start over. DC fans are among the most sophisticated in the league and they will more than understand having to make it through a couple of bad seasons while the team retools, finds some new pieces and develops a new system under a first rate head coach. But they aren't going to stand for being fed crap and told it's chocolate cake any longer.

And if it's any consolation, since USSF graciously consented to once again put Lamars' Cup on plastic turf, the team that normally plays in that building and on that plastic is more than likely to win anyway, so they shouldn't feel too bad. All they really avoided was a fools' errand.