Q Crappy weather and a three-point lead, five weeks before the season opener: What's your guess at the crowd at RFK Thursday night? (Is "crowd" even the right word?)
A You know it's not a good sign when the DCU folks are asking me to write about tickets. So here goes: Tickets are available. Chance of rain, big lead in the series, mid-week, not much buzz about this game, hmmmm. I'm sure some Honduran fans will show to help turnout, but I'd be surprised if there were more than 10,000. To be honest, I have not asked the front office about their expectations.
Q How do you see the U.S. stacking up a the World Cup in 2010 -- e.g., is it realistic to expect the U.S. to make it out of an average-quality grouping? And what is your estimate as to when the U.S. can realistically hope to arrive as an elite team / World Cup contender -- say, on the level of England?
A Much too early to say how the U.S. will fare in 2010. We've got a good idea of the roster's core - Dempsey, Howard, Onyewu, Donovan, Beasley, Cherundolo, etc. -- but talent always emerges late in the cycle. The key to success in a World Cup for mid-level programs such as the U.S.'s is the draw. You get stuck in a rough one like 2006, you're probably doomed. You get put in a moderate one like 2002, you've got a shot to advance. As far as being an elite team on the world stage, it will be another few decades, I'm afraid.
Q If United did sign Jamil Fearrington, what are his chances of cracking the starting lineup and who might he replace?
A United is looking at Fearrington for defensive depth, not an instant starter. Over time, perhaps he'll evolve into a starting candidate, but this move would simply give the coaching staff more options in the back during a very busy year.
Q What are Kasali Yinka Casal 's chances of beating out Gros for the starting right midfield spot?
A Casal plays on the left, not the right, and at the moment, is regarded more as a prospect than a starter. Gros is a lock to start.
Q Given the 4-1 goal lead and the home venue, do you foresee any changes to the lineup and/or formation for Thursday, or will it be the same starting 3-5-2 as last week?
A No reason to change anything after a 4-1 victory. I'd be surprised if there were any changes in the starting lineup.
Q I'm not sure of the details but could you talk about the new women's league and what you are hearing as to what we might see. The doubleheaders with United and Freedom were great.
A Contrary to what the Associated Press wrote, the women's league is not certain to restart in 2008. A group of investors have stepped forward and committed to placing teams in six cities, including Washington, IF a league is launched. It is getting closer to fruition, but at the moment, there is no league. They're still hoping to add two more cities and perhaps launching the league next year.
Q From where do you like to watch the games at RFK (sideline, press box, Barra Brava)? What kind of beer do they serve in the press box?
A Press box, baby! No beer; just official MLS Pepsi products.
Q Have you heard anything about former DCU draft pick Kenney Bertz possibly being picked up to fill in the defense?
Q How has Dyachenko looked in practice? What are the chances he'll spell Moreno and/or Gomez on a consistent basis?
A He's a versatile attacking option off the bench. He can play up top, in central midfield and, the club believes, on the flank. I'm sure we'll see a lot of him this year.
Q Things are awfully quiet on the Zidane rumor front, aren't they? Is it time to put this issue to rest?
A It's dead ... for now.
Q What are the chances DCU trades one of our 4 or 5 defensive midfielders? (Olsen, Simms, Arguez, 2 Carrolls). I bet we could get a good player for B. Carroll or Simms. Leeds will be relegated (again). Unless Eddie Lewis wants to play some League 1 football he'll be changing teams this summer. Any chance of an Earnie Stewart-like transfer to DC?
A As far as I know, there are no trades in the works. Have not heard anything about Eddie Lewis coming to D.C.
Q I love getting your practice notes, but I understand it's not feasible if they're in Florida again or if the big bad Post has you stuck on college basketball duty. Are you going to be able to get out to practices much in the next month?
A I'll get out to training when I can, but the priority over the next month will be college basketball - and they need my help. United will actually be away a lot prior to the MLS opener. On Saturday they head to Florida for a week and assuming they advance to the next round of Champions' Cup, they'll also spend considerable time training in Mexico. So unfortunately, except for the matches, there will not be many opportunities to see them in person.
Q Obviously it's early in the game but how do you rate Fearrington and Casals --just young guys who might be worth something in a year or could they push for starting time? And Welton--any sense of what type of forward he is? In other words, does he primarily spell Emilio or Moreno?
A Casal is on the team and will be an option on the flank. Fearrington's tryout begins this weekend and, as I said earlier, he would add depth to the back. Good question about Welton. The club sees him as a No. 9 striker, just like Emilio, but until they see more of him, they're not quite sure yet what his role would be.
Q Do you think MLS should increase the number of Senior International slots on a given roster?
A No. But I do think the league needs to increase the number of senior roster slots from 18 to 20 or 22, so more players earn a decent living and not have to get by on developmental salaries.
Q What cities are the most likely candidates for MLS expansion and what is the timeline for expansion?
A St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Seattle, Philadelphia and the SF area are mentioned often. The buzz has died down a bit, so I'd be surprised if any deals are reached in the next few months. I guess we're looking at 2009.
Q Kpene has apparently signed a contract with MLS, but there's been no official announcement from DC. Status?
A They are still finalizing the details, but it appears he will be among the developmental players. The team also has to complete the deals with Casal and perhaps Crowe.
Q Any word on Kiki Willis's status with the club? I know he was having toe infection issues that weren't healing, any chance he'd be brought back in for a look?
A When healthy, Kiki will probably get another look. No word on when that might be. He too would be a developmental candidate. Brad North, who suffered a hamstring injury, is in the same situation.
Q Three of United's 5 draft picks didn't make the team or didn't even try. Do you think this is "normal" or should United be making different decisions in the draft - making trades, passing on some players, drafting lesser players, etc.
A The failure to sign Needham was notable. Other than that, nothing to worry about. Few draft picks amount to much.
Q When are they starting construction of the new stadium at Poplar Point? What's the current status of the timeline for that?
A Yeah, yeah, zzzzz. Seriously, as I've said all along, I'll believe it when I see it. You're dealing with a massive bureaucracy and a city that does not care as much about soccer as it does about baseball. If a deal isn't reached soon, perhaps Mr. Macfarlane should turn his attention to a stadium project in the suburbs.
Q I have to say I don't really know much about Tommy Soehn. What can we expect from him? What's he like as a coach and just as a guy as compared to Peter, Bruce, Hudson, etc.?
A Down-to-earth, Midwest guy who worked his way up in U.S. soccer circles. I am planning to write a profile sometime before the MLS opener.
Q I thought one of MLS changes for this year was that every game would be televised. The schedule on the United web site shows that that is not the case. What gives?
A United and Comcast SportsNet typically do not finalize their contract until just before the season starts. Rest assured, almost all regular season games will be televised on Comcast, ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, Fox Soccer Channel or a Spanish network.
Q As per your blog entry Robbie Rogers will be entered in a lottery draft, what's the breakdown of the probability of each teams chances of getting him. Do you happen to know if DC is interested?
A IF Rogers signs with MLS and IF indeed a lottery is used, the best teams over the last year or two have the longest odds of acquiring him. Like all MLS teams, DCU is interested.
Q Is United in any discussions with a company over a shirt sponsorship like the potential Citigroup-LA Galaxy deal? On another note, does the Post offer summer internships in any field?
A No, I wouldn't expect any major shirt sponsorships this season. Yes, the Post has summer internships for college students. There are thousands of applicants every year and only about 25 are chosen to work in various newsroom departments for three months at staff salary. The deadline to apply is Nov. 1 for the following summer. For more info, call the main number at 202-334-6000 and ask for the Internship Coordinator.
Q Which coaches would you consider as "on the hot seat" going into the early season, if any?
A Sigi Schmid could use a good year in Columbus. Dave Sarachan, maybe?
Q In your opinion, do you think D.C. United is talented enough to compete on a regular basis with teams from the Premiership? Besides the big four of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea, I could see United being competitive against the likes of Bolton, Wigan, Watford and West Ham.
A Assuming all teams are in mid-season form and fitness, United could play with some Premiership clubs, but over the course of a long season, they would not fare well. The gap, top to bottom, between the Premiership and MLS is awfully wide.
Q Has there been any word on whether Christian Gomez's younger brother will be granted another trial with the club? Will there be any more announcements about youth players committed to playing for our youth initiative?
A No more Gomezs. Sorry. The club already announced commitments from three local players. I'm sure there will be more later this year.
Q Steve, I know that every MLS preseason there are a bunch of Euro players out of contract whose agents start calling and they try out with a bunch of MLS teams hoping to hook on somewhere. Welton, Fearrington and Casal--to what extent are they here b/c of DC United scouting/contacts versus just luck of the draw? I'm wondering if these are guys that Kasper and Co. spotted and invited or they contacted us--any insight on this?
A United has a network of agents and scouts around the world, but they also make trips to Europe and Latin America in search of talent. They watch tapes, they do their homework, they determine how much they would be willing to offer if they like the player, and then they decide whether to offer a tryout. Obviously, they didn't scout Welton in Saudi Arabia. Fearrington has U.S. ties, so teams were aware of him, but he does have a U.S.-based contact working on his behalf.
Q I'm looking to head to Florida in a week or so for Spring Break. If United advances on Thursday, what sort of schedule can we expect for the next few weeks of the offseason? I assume some more time in Branderton as well as the game at Lockhart?
A United heads to the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area on Saturday for a week of training. I believe they will use fields in Sunrise, Fla. They are also tentatively scheduled to play Motagua of Honduras on March 9. Apparently, that match will be played at Lockhart or at Tropical Park (??), where the USL team is based.
Q Don't you think that Carlos Tevez would be a great fit for MLS this season? His star has really dimmed in Europe and he has burned bridges in South America. MLS could get him fairly cheap and if he has a great year, they could sell him for a huge profit.
A MLS can't afford Tevez.
Q What's the deal with NE not being able to use the $2+ million they received for Dempsey on a good player? I think that Robbie Fowler would be huge for the Revs and the league, but it seems that the league is keeping them down so that Becks can be assured a trophy...seems kinda fishy to me. Your thoughts?
A New England is up to something, I just don't know what.
Q Is there any possibility of DCU starting an Arsenal/Rapids or RSL/Real Madrid style partnership with a well-known Euro squad? Will/would tickets be more or less expensive at the Poplar Point stadium?
A No partnerships pending. What stadium? If a new arena is ever built, yes, ticket prices will go up.
Q Your prediction regarding the National Team Coaching situation?
A Gulati grows tired and frustrated with the process of pursuing a foreign coach and gives the job to Bradley.
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