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Posted at 4:35 PM ET, 12/21/2010

Is United cheap?

By Jeff Maurer

United passed on the likes of Jimmy Conrad, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Juan Pablo Angel in last week's expansion draft, choosing the less-expensive options of Josh Wolff and Joseph Ngwenya. Then they traded Troy Perkins - who was scheduled to make more than $200,000 in 2011 - for Steve Cronin and allocation money. They haven't made any significant foreign signings this off-season. What's going on here? One of two scenarios. Imagine with me for a minute...

Scenario A: United President and CEO Kevin Payne is in his office in crumbling RFK Stadium. The lights and the heat are off...better to save money that way. Payne sits in a chair with threadbare upholstery, the third arm of his irregular sport coat draped over the back. He digs through the suit's nine pockets in search of some rolls he snagged from a meeting earlier in the day - it's dinner time. Opening a drawer in his desk, Payne produces several ketchup and soy sauce packets collected from fast food restaurants over the years. He removes a few packets, gnaws open the top, and proceeds to drizzle the sauce over the rolls; dinner is served. For dessert: cake swiped from the birthday party of some DC Sports and Entertainment employee he's never met and a handful of mints taken from the local deli.

His meal finished, Payne walks to the window just in time to see the 96 bus roll to a stop in the RFK parking lot. Ben Olsen hobbles out, having completed the three bus transfers and half mile walk required to get him to RFK in just under two and a half hours. He stops at the Salvation Army bell ringer outside the stadium just long enough to get rid of some Canadian coins, then heads inside to meet Payne.

Payne greets Ben at his office door, "Ben!" he says, extending his hand, "Great to see you! Can I offer you something...PBR, Natty Light? Tap water?"

"No thanks - I'm not thirsty," Ben replies, having stopped by Burger King on his way over to refill a cup he's been carrying around since 2002. "Look, Kev, we've got to talk about the draft."

"Right, the draft," says Payne, stroking his chin. "What's up - did you find a place to park for free near the Baltimore Convention Center?"

"No - it's about the pick itself. We've got the third overall pick. That's a valuable freaking thing, and you don't just give it away from nothing."

"No kidding," says Payne. "We screw this up and it's going to be a long MARC ride back to D.C."

"Exactly. Well, I had a brainstorm the other day. You know how I had a Groupon for one of those Duck Boat tours of D.C.?"

"Yes."

"So, I'm on the tour, and I see a kid wearing a signed David Beckham jersey. I asked him how much he paid for it, and he says...get this...five hundred dollars!"

Payne's eyes widen at the mere thought of so much money. Aghast, he flops onto the inflatable sofa next to the window.

Ben continues: "And that's no fluke. I put the jersey I got from Beckham after his first MLS game on Ebay, and sure enough...five hundred dollars!"

Payne is getting flushed. He dabs sweat from his forehead with the third arm of his sport coat.

"So, I'm thinking we trade our pick to L.A. for maybe a thousand signed Beckham jerseys, put them on Ebay, and then watch the money roll in!"

Payne suddenly sits straight up and looks Ben in the eye: "No," he says. For a second, Ben is crestfallen. But Payne continues: "We trade our pick for TWO thousand UNSIGNED Beckham jerseys, sign them OURSELVES, and THEN watch the money roll in!" Ben's eyes light up, and the two men spring from their seats to execute a mid-air high five.

"Outstanding!" says Payne.

"Awesome!" says Ben. "Should we call Will?"

"Not yet," Payne replies. "It's 6:30 in San Francisco. He won't pick up until his night-time minutes kick in at 9."

Scenario B: Kevin Payne, Ben Olsen, and the rest of the United brain trust are in Payne's office at RFK. The lights are on, both literally and figuratively. They're hard at work figuring out how to use the cap space they've cleared to bring in an impact striker and central defender.

I've got my fingers crossed for scenario B.

By Jeff Maurer  | December 21, 2010; 4:35 PM ET
Categories:  Jeff Maurer, United  | Tags:  D.C. United, Jeff Maurer  
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Comments

It's not like Chang gets to keep any money if he doesn't spend up to the cap. It would be Don Garber back in New York that would pocket the savings.

I would figure the fact that DC is trading for an allocation means that what's going on here is that DC is collecting a lot of medium-salary players to have a deeper squad rotation, so that if some guys get hurt we aren't screwed like we were last year.

Posted by: stancollins | December 21, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Can I have my 5 minutes back?

Posted by: OhBoyOhBoy | December 21, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Yu a slo readur huh OhBoyOhBoy...

Posted by: DadRyan | December 21, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Dude, now that is freakin funny!

Posted by: Matte | December 22, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

don't forget that that brain trust is smaller than in the past, since we can't afford to hire a 3rd assistant coach!

Posted by: joe_hill | December 22, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I wish that Onalfo was as graceful as Onyewu and give us at least one of those two(?) years of salary back? ;)

Posted by: DadRyan | December 22, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Good stuff Jeff.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | December 22, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

DCU will spend its allotted salary budget money; the CBA requires it. And as was correctly pointed out by stancollins in an incorrect assertion, it's not DCU money, only their budget. Will might not spring for a DP as teams are allowed to do with their own money.

The question is whom do we trust to make the decisions with that money we do have to available through the salary budget to spend, Kasper or anyone else?

If you want to consider a way to spend a lot of money in a positive, intelligent way, Will should offer Checketts $500,000 for Garth's contract, offload Kasper, and bring the smartest MLS GM to DC. He would likely love to come to DC, given his deep connection to the area. Also, he recently got married and his new wife is from this area. Word in the Great Salt Lake is that she is not terribly pleased to be in that religious colony and certainly she would love to be back in DC. The move makes so much sense on so many levels.

Posted by: lgm6986 | December 23, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

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