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D.C. United Coaching Update

D.C. United's search for a head coach has entered the final stages, and although club officials are not speaking publicly about the process, tidbits of information have been circulating in coaching circles.

The word is that the club has narrowed its list to two, and although the secret mission has considered a wide range of candidates, the names I have heard mentioned most frequently in recent days are Caleb Porter from the University of Akron and Curt Onalfo, the former U.S. national team assistant and Kansas City head coach.

Is there someone else out there, perhaps from overseas, flying under our radar? It's possible. United has been patient, open-minded and meticulous in its search to replace Tom Soehn. Club president Kevin Payne did say he planned to speak with foreign coaches. Domestic candidates have included Red Bulls interim coach Richie Williams, DCU assistant Chad Ashton and Real Salt Lake assistant Robin Fraser. Given his success and local ties, Maryland's Sasho Cirovski would seem to be in the mix, though I haven't received any indication that he has been approached or will talk to the club now that the Terrapins' season is over.

Keep reading.....

The interest in Porter stems in part, sources say, in United's curiosity to possibly hire someone outside regular MLS channels. He's only 34. He played briefly for San Jose and Tampa Bay before knee injuries ended his career. He served as an assistant at Indiana University, his alma mater, for six years and has guided Akron to a 68-11-7 record in four seasons, including 23-0 and a College Cup berth this year. He is in the first year of a new five-year contract that, according to this informative column in the Akron Beacon-Journal, includes a modest buyout clause. He has worked with the U.S. under-18 national team and coached at MLS's scouting combine last winter.

"He is one of the bright stars of this profession," Jerry Yeagley, the Indiana legend who coached and mentored Porter as an assistant before retiring, said a few years ago.

Porter has played down speculation that he would consider openings at Indiana and Clemson this winter.

Onalfo, 40, has the stronger portfolio: 2 1/2 seasons as an MLS head coach, four years under Bruce Arena with the national team, familiarity with DCU's philosophy and organization after serving as a player and assistant coach, ties to the community through his work in Northern Virginia youth soccer, and fluency speaking Spanish.

The fact that United has yet to hire an MLS-oriented coach leads me to believe they are waiting for Porter to wrap up the college season before approaching him again. The Zips will face North Carolina on Friday night in Cary, N.C., and if they advance, play Virginia or Wake Forest in Sunday's final.

Regardless of what United is contemplating -- Porter, Onalfo or some other mystery candidate -- we should probably expect a decision in the next 10 days.

By Steve Goff  |  December 7, 2009; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Next: Poll: FIFA Player of the Year


None of these options excite me...

Posted by: alan19 | December 7, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Can we lure Bruce Arena back?

Posted by: redskinsux | December 7, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

If you take the two main options presented - Caleb Porter vs. Curt Onalfo it seems like Onalfo is the "safe" choice that you make if you think you've got a pretty good team that just needs a little bit of tinkering and a breath of fresh air / urgency that you get from a new guy running the show and Porter is the guy you hire if you think you need to completely rebuild the team and it's going to be a couple of year project - he plays the style of soccer you want and you are ready to give him the time and the new personnnel to implement his system. Who they hire could say a lot about what the powers that be really think about our last season...

I say hire Porter...

Posted by: QuietSide | December 7, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Any word why Richie Williams is out?

Posted by: regularfan | December 7, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Quietside, of the two, Porter definately sounds more interesting.

Posted by: regularfan | December 7, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Any idea if marco etcheverry is in the mix? He is out as coach in oriente, and doesnt want his contract to be renewed or extended.

Posted by: BolivianDCFan | December 7, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I agree Quiet and regular. Porter would make for an very interesting choice, though are fans willing to allow for a couple more years of "rebuilding"?

Posted by: nairbsod | December 7, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for the update Steve. You do an excellent job time and time again.

Posted by: DadRyan | December 7, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Seriously: Marco is available?

Posted by: nairbsod | December 7, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe this club!! First, no progress on a new stadium. Now, we're "settling" for these guys as a coach. No offense, but come on!! Curt Onalfo and Caleb Porter???!!!

Posted by: cfrazier91 | December 7, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

who cares -- as long as payne and kasper are still there and part of the selection process, the selection will stink!

Posted by: bestmick1 | December 7, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Why was Onalfo let go of Kansas City, or why did he leave? KC wasn't very good under his guidance, so why would DC suddenly be?

Porter's youth and inexperience concern me.

Also want to know why Goff thinks Williams is out of the running.

Posted by: WorldCup | December 7, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Rumor has it that a former French professional named Jacques Amar is the dark horse candidate this time 'round.

Posted by: DCUSince96 | December 7, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, the surf is GOING OFF and GETTING BIGGER at Waimea Bay, zone out on this webstream brah!

Staring at it for 5-10 minutes will calm your DCU coaching rage. Promise.

Posted by: DadRyan | December 7, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

From the sound of things the only thing going well right now IMO is DC United has ruled out Richie Williams. Bravo for that.

Onalfo? Please. Almost as bad an idea as Williams.

Caleb Porter? Who knows if he can coach in MLS? Buit maybe take a gamble on him instead of going for the virtually guaranteed mediocrity you would get with Williams or Onalfo.

Posted by: Ron16 | December 7, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Onalfo was let go at KC because the GM wanted a shot at head coach. After Onalfo saw the door, the Wizards went something like 3-6-3, and the new guy was so proud of himself, he went ahead and named himself Coach/GM for 2010 as well. Not that I'm necessarily thrilled with Onalfo here in DC, but he was in a bad, bad situation in Kansas City, and I don't think anybody short of the Bruce would have survived in that environment.

Posted by: TheAMT | December 7, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Onalfo was let go because KC was in a death spiral this year, culminating in that 6-0 drubbing at Dallas.

You've had decisions made in KC the past couple years like spending DP money on Claudio Lopez who's career was OVER at Racing, bringing in 31-year-old d-mid Santiago Hirsig, putting a #10 on his back and thinking for a month or two that he can be an a-mid, only to find he's a backpass machine.

That's not to mention the whole Carlos Marinelli flop.

Someone had a love for aging South Americans, and I bet it wasn't Peter Vermes, however much of a egotist he is. His "old guy" was clearly Zoltan, the aging Hungarian.

You guys want more aging South Americans? Hire Onalfo.

Posted by: StanShmenge | December 7, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Steve - do you think the money United are willing to spend (or not spend) on someone is a factor? Are they looking for the cheap solution?

Thanks for your coverage

Posted by: Kev29 | December 7, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Enough of the Sasho Cirovski talk. First, no one but Goff seems to think he "is in the mix." Second, he coaches the most highly recruited players and the results are below average for the talent he has. Lastly, have you seen the style of soccer they play at Maryland? It's low level kick ball stuff. That is not DC United's style.

Posted by: BigBubba1 | December 7, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

between Onalfo and Porter, I think Porter is the better choice. A young guy that has worked under a legand at Indiana, worked at the national level, and has some MLS expirence in working the combine. He could be the next great american coach in the making. If he is what better place than DC United to further his career. where was Bruce Arena when he came to DC?

Posted by: jjfooty | December 7, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Guus Hiddink is still available...why shouldn't we expect Chang to make a very serious commitment to improving the on-the-field product?

Posted by: soccerman | December 7, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it will matter who coaches DC United next season... we're doomed.

+ Our best player will turn 36 next month.
+ Our best goalkeeper is a headcase and should be cut.
+ We spend too much money on two Brazilians.
+ United is "Heartless" now that Benny retired.
+ We lack championship-level experience all over the field.
+ We play in a decrepit, crumbling, catacomb of a stadium.
+ Our cup is half empty.
+ Our stadium is more than half empty.
+ The sky is falling
+ Parts of our stadium is falling

Porter or Onalfo...

Does it make a difference?

Posted by: TCompton | December 7, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I agree, BigBubba1. Watching UMD play past few years is like watching Scottish soccer but without the tactical acumen. Those guys were running around aimlessly like headless chicken. I'm terp alumni and remembered they played controlled, passing attractive soccer under Shattuck.

Posted by: Charisma_Man | December 7, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't it seem like they would have already hired Onalfo if he's the one they really wanted?

My guess is they are waiting for Porter.

Until we deal with our player situation I don't think who the coach is will really matter all that much. A change was needed, but more needs to change than just the coach.

Posted by: fedssocr | December 7, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I can't find a "former French professional" named Jacques Amar on Google, but I do find a hair stylist and a physicist. Of the two, I would prefer the stylist. At least we would look good losing (no more of those Prison Break shaved head looks). The physicist would have us attempting to play while expending the least amount of energy, a sure recipe for losing.

Posted by: b18bolo | December 7, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Enough of the Sasho Cirovski talk. First, no one but Goff seems to think he "is in the mix." Second, he coaches the most highly recruited players and the results are below average for the talent he has. Lastly, have you seen the style of soccer they play at Maryland? It's low level kick ball stuff. That is not DC United's style.

Posted by: BigBubba1 | December 7, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse


And yet they have titles and have put a lot of guys in the pros (Rodney, Omar and AJ just this year, plus Goodson, Edu, Rogers, Twellman, Garey, and Seitz who will be great when he gets playing time). It ain't sexy football, but I don't think there aren't many college teams that look like a Real Madrid Juniors team.

Posted by: M__N | December 7, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm terp alumni
Posted by: Charisma_Man
Did all of you have the same major?

The physicist would have us attempting to play while expending the least amount of energy, a sure recipe for losing.
Posted by: b18bolo
And he'd hire his relatives (theoretically).

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | December 7, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I knew there was a reason that Lucky Guus was turning down his most recent options.

Kevin must have lost his Blackberry...

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | December 7, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

So the Maryland "alums" don't like the guy who recruits great players only to under-perform and win titles. Instead they prefer the guy who taught his players to male intricate passes qnd lead the team into oblivion. Yeah - let's let these guys pick DCU's next coach....NOT!

Posted by: LostinPotomac | December 7, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I think we should be looking for someone like Walter Matthau.

Posted by: OWNTF | December 7, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I'd rather gamble on Porter coming up trumps, because I have no reason to believe that Onalfo is ready for a head coaching position. He reminds me of a more attack-oriented Dave Sarachan: Tremendous assistant coach, but lacking (at least right now) as a head coach.

The biggest problem I have with Onalfo, based on his time in KC, is that they always seemed satisfied to be mediocre. There was no anguish at their lack of success, and no desperation to get better. At least from the outside looking in, it looked like the demands being placed on the players were too easy to meet. "Just play well, and if we lose, unlucky."

You could make a convincing argument that these same problems plagued Tom Soehn. There seemed to be a lack of accountability in each of the last 2 seasons, and Soehn also strikes me as a fine assistant who isn't ready for the head coaching gig.

I would love to be wrong if Onalfo is in charge, but on the surface I see no evidence that he would oversee years of being amongst MLS's top dogs. I can't see any future with him leading this team that doesn't involve the same also-ran status that we all find unacceptable today. I don't think any of us wants to see another "win and you're in" game in the last week of the season. We should be better than MLS's soft middle.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | December 7, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Goff for coach dammit!!!

Posted by: 9Nine9 | December 7, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse


Being a great recruiter of HS kids isn't going to do much good in the pro ranks. Unfortunetly, the UMD record is more indicative of Cirovski's power to draw the best players to the program instead of his coaching abilities. Those players didn't amke it to the pro level because of his coaching.

We need a high level coach, not a HS recruiter.

Posted by: BigBubba1 | December 7, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I echo the majority of sentiments on here, i'm not exactly excited by the options, but having to choose between who is mentioned lets go with the potential of the college coaches rather than the low risk-low reward option.

Posted by: Brian76 | December 7, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse


I rather doubt the KC gang were "satisfied" to be mediocre. Fact is, Vermes got the mix all wrong and despite that Onalfo got them to the playoffs two years running and would have had them there this year as well. Onalfo was simply made the fall guy so Vermes could assuage his bruised ego and blame things on someone other than himself. The owners went along becuase they are in a financial pickle, stuck in a tiny little stadium and their plans for a new one down the toilet.
This way they pay only one man.
Fact is, KC will likely be sold and moved within a couple years.

Posted by: Ruthie1 | December 7, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

If we must choose, the Akron guy over Onalfo. We need a fresh approach, not a guy who is an expert in reshuffling the deck of MLS players and forming a mediocre substitute. Someone new, someone who will bring a little fear back into the equation.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | December 7, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm not crazy about either of these options. Here are a couple of thoughts.

1)I think its a bit unfair to conclude that from one 2 year head coaching stint someone is a dreadful coach. There are a lot of dynamics that can influence a coaches success at a particular club, including front office personnel, empowerment of the coach, players he inherits, clashing visions bt the front office and head coach, etc. There are countless examples of where a coach does not have success in one location but goes on to success at another. Heck, look at Arena. Even he had a bad run when he was in NY.

2) I am supportive of the MLS developing coaches as much as they do players and providing opportunities for quality folks in the college ranks. Just out of curiosity what is the tack record of college coaches making the jump to the head job in MLS? It strikes me as a big jump, regardless of how attractive or effective a style one might play in the college ranks. The jump in talent and tactical sophistication is quite huge. Besides, what was the level of competition that Akron regularly played against when he compiled his impressive record.

I would be inclined to go with Onalfo who has head coaching experience in the league and has DCU links. But I am really just basing this all on his resume. I really do not have any thoughts on his ability as a coach. I just pray management makes the right decisions and that they begin to address our roster that needs a bunch of work.

Posted by: nyjer1 | December 7, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

nyjer1 - Track record of college coaches making it in MLS is pretty least five MLS Cups and five Open Cups from a quick count not to mention one of those CONCACAF trophies.

I imagine if one were to do an empirical evaluation (with statistical regressions and all that crap), college coaches would come out pretty well and certainly not below the mean (coaches with only overseas experience would probably fare the worst).

BibBubba1 - I just don't buy what you're selling. Cirovski recruits good players and wins games with good players and its not because he just sends them out there to play kickball. Bottom line is that he is a winner and just because his teams don't play like Barcelona or Arsenal or the Orangemen of yore, doesn't mean he can't coach marginal players in a marginal professional league.

Posted by: LostinPotomac | December 7, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Can anyone confirm truth to this rumor. Floating around the salvadoran community is that Mauricio Cienfuegos was approach by DC? I Don't think is true, but has anyone else heard his name being mentioned as a possible candidate?, and what does everyone think?

Posted by: RM27 | December 7, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

I agree with ya UnitedDemon. We know what you will get with Onalfo. At least I think we know. Porter seems to be an "outside the box" type of hire. He's young, motivated to make a name for himself, and is not entirely unfamiliar with MLS. I could think of much worse hires that have plenty of MLS experience. (*cough Sampson *cough)

Posted by: SonicDeathMonkey | December 7, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Garbage! complete and utter garbage! united is in a tailspin. Does Chang have a clue? What the hell is going on? Dammit! Look at every comment here and elsewhere! Dammit, dammit, dammit. Awww dammit!

Posted by: eyeprose | December 7, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe this club!! First, no progress on a new stadium. Now, we're "settling" for these guys as a coach. No offense, but come on!! Curt Onalfo and Caleb Porter???!!!

Posted by: cfrazier91 | December 7, 2009 1:47 PM |

Yeah -- why can't we get Guus Hiddink, or someone else who has one either a World Cup or UEFA Championship. Or Marco van Basten.

Or, a really big name coach like Chivas (Vazquez) and Toronto (Preki) got!!!

Back to reality for a moment -- I vote for the physicist.

OK, now REALLY back to reality. I would pick Porter over Onalfo. Onalfo has a lot of experience, but not exactly a record of success personally. Porter looks like a real winner. Sometimes, the young geniuses don't pan out (Belichick with the Browns), but sometimes they do (Belichick with the Patriots).

Posted by: fischy | December 7, 2009 11:57 PM | Report abuse

@Ruthie1 has it pretty much spot on. Onalfo did not pick the players, PV did. At the end of the year PV states that the team needed an overhaul after he "guided" them to a 3-6-3 record. I would suggest the team, which had missed the playoffs for two years in a row prior to Onalfo's arrival, overachieved. They made it for the two full years he was there.

As I said yesterday, team missing the playoffs two years in a row has a bit of a ring to it - doesn't it?

The other relatively unknown factor in his dismissal was the fact he (Onalfo) was offered, and turned down, a four year extension from KCW just prior to this past season. This did not go over well and then add to the mix what Ruthie1 mentions re finances and the writing was on the wall.

CO took a below mediocre team and made them overachieve. A bunch of his veteran players were traded away after the first season, with EJ being sold, and he still took them to the playoffs. He took a player, Eddie J, and brought him back to life. And sometimes you never know the mandate being made by management re playing players - might surprise some of you.

Posted by: williamdelaney1 | December 8, 2009 7:09 AM | Report abuse

Do the zips play Yeagley-esque ball? If so, yuck-o. No thanks.

Posted by: TwoIsle | December 8, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Being a great recruiter of HS kids isn't going to do much good in the pro ranks. Unfortunetly, the UMD record is more indicative of Cirovski's power to draw the best players to the program instead of his coaching abilities. Those players didn't amke it to the pro level because of his coaching.

We need a high level coach, not a HS recruiter.

Posted by: BigBubba1 |

Bruce Arena didn't do too badly for us.

Posted by: Ron16 | December 8, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

UEFA Champions League

Posted by: bgfgf402 | December 8, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Are we looking at the Uruguayan Jorge Fossati? This guy won the Copa Sudamericana (South America's UEFA Cup) and Recopa Sudamericana (South America's cup winners' cup) this year with Liga de Quito. Pretty impressive considering LDU lost their best two players Damian Manso and Luis Bolanos after winning the Copa Libertadores the year before.

Posted by: Charisma_Man | December 8, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I am amazed at the lack of disrespect for Sasho. He gets good players because he gets results. UM soccer has been the most successful team for easily the past 5 years and its is because what he gets out of his players. Even if you are a great recruiter, it does not necessarily mean a winning record on the field. He has provided more national players than any other school in those past 5 years. If you try to compare college soccer to pro level then that is a mistake in its own right. The individual who pointed out that Arena came from a successful VA program to lead us to championship after championship and then take over the USMNT is right on. Personally I want Sasho to stay at MD because he offers a reason to go back to campus when our football team continues to sputter. Have you been to a MD soccer game lately? They actually tailgate now and have a ravid student section. They pull some of the biggest crowds nationally. Are you still going to sit there and say that Sasho is not a good coach . . .puff, puff, pass brothers!!

Posted by: terptilldeath | December 8, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Guillermo Scalotto for coach.
D.C. United should hire coach that can play Latino style of play.It has to be former high class attacing player preferably playmaker.Scalloto is ideal candidate.Consider also Christian Gomes.

Posted by: lotus2 | December 8, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

It's time for this organization to take the next step in development for pro soccer in America. Specifically, to get the owners and upper management to get out of the way especially in view of the team's woeful past 2 seasons in attempting to step beyond domestic competition and branch out internationally, and let a bigger better brain come in and set up shop. After, by all means, do everything they can to get behind him as he crafts the team to his philosophy.
We're doomed to fall below our established pedigree of THE FRANCHISE by not following this path. By that, I mean to say you're not going to attract a true candidate- capable of not only change but success- until we can establish the authority and respect at the head coaching position.
Any trying to "fit a peg into the team's plug" isn't going to cut it. I've yet to see what could be considered a serious candidate mentioned that would bolster any beliefs that the team is back to raising the bar in MLS competition.
We were good with Arenas, so-so with Rongen, dipped under Hundson, took a big step forward with Nowak, and fell back with Soehn. It's time for the big hire if the team is still serious in upholding any memory of it's former goals.

Posted by: Eismahn | December 9, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

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