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D.C. United news & notes

*Like all MLS clubs, D.C. United is awaiting roster guidelines forged in the new collective bargaining agreement before making final personnel moves ahead of this week's league openers. Are homegrown academy players exempt from the 24-man roster? Do developmental roster slots still exist? What is the exact salary cap figure?

The homegrown policy is particularly important for United, which signed an academy player last fall (goalkeeper Bill Hamid) and seems poised to add another (midfielder Andy Najar).

Najar, who turned 17 last week and is a junior at Edison High School in Alexandria, appeared in numerous preseason matches and was tested at multiple positions. From what I've heard, he traveled to his native Honduras recently to obtain a work visa.

From the young to the old, United also seems set to sign 37-year-old central defender Juan Manuel Peña. The Bolivian, who played 14 years in Spain for Valladolid, Villarreal and Celta Vigo, impressed the coaching staff at training camp. Coach Curt Onalfo declined to discuss negotiations but said that Peña "is very technical and has provided leadership" on a backline that will probably include Rodney Wallace, 21, Dejan Jakovic, 24, and Devon McTavish, 25, in the lineup.

In other news.....

*Midfielder Clyde Simms has fully recovered from minor knee surgery and, although he is likely to be available for Saturday's opener at Kansas City, this week's training sessions will determine whether he is fit enough and in form to start. Simms did not play in any of the recent preseason matches. In Simms's absence, Kurt Morsink has paired with Santino Quaranta in central midfield.

*United will have to decide whether to offer contracts to defenders Jordan Graye, Daniel Woolard and Barry Rice, midfielder Drew Yates and goalkeeper Andrew Quinn. My hunch is that Quinn will be retained as the No. 3 keeper behind Troy Perkins and Hamid. Once Josh Wicks returns from his shoulder injury, Wicks or Quinn would depart.

I'm also wondering whether returning midfielders Tiyi Shipalane and John DiRaimondo have shown enough to retain their roster slots.

By Steve Goff  |  March 22, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Next: Charlie Davies and the World Cup


I've wanted to be impressed by DiRaimondo but recalling the Open Cup matches and a league appearance or two, I come up empty.

With $900K of cap space (less whatever Pena costs), you'd think we'd make a move. But maybe we see how the current squad does and wait for the summer transfer window.

It's interesting that the team sticks with Tino at C-mid and Jaime up top. Given Jaime's speed issues I would think about switching them and see if Jaime can play distributer. Maybe not enough gas in the tank for that?

Posted by: dsheon1 | March 22, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I like the Pena signing, and I am hopeful that the roster rules will allow us to sign a young talent like Najar without making a huge sacrifice elsewhere in case the kid doesn't pan out. Probably good for Bill to have someone closer to his age around, plus Tino should be able to provide some leadership there since he was signed at 16.

In terms of who's left, based on the limited tape I've seen, I'd narrow it down by dropping Shipalane and Woolard and making a tough decision between Graye or Rice and Yates or DiRaimondo.

I am an authority on these things because I am currently top of the table in MLS in Football Manager 2010.

Posted by: VercengetorixII | March 22, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind some of those funds going to increased salaries for players we want to keep. Players that are better paid tend to show their appreciation on the field.

Excited about the defense, looks like we'll have at least three solid central defenders going into the season, one of whom has a wealth of experience to share with the younger pair.

I can't wait to see Najar play.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | March 22, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I'm very happy that United seems ready to sign Andy Najar. He's been useful when he's been on the field in the preseason, plus it gives the clear indication that the club takes its player development role seriously. This can only encourage the young studs to work harder, plus it makes it easier for DC market itself as the club-of-choice for young American talent.

Posted by: schmuckatelli | March 22, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I don't know where this $900,000 in cap space figure is coming from. No one outside the club/league knows exactly how much is available. You can't simply add up last year's salaries and estimate the newcomers' earnings. This is MLS; it's complicated and secretive.

Posted by: Steve Goff | March 22, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I agree with that, given what they said about compnesation for players, god knows what that will do now to plyaer salary figures.

I am happy with Pena signing, truthfully, I was sort of worried that he may be passed his prime, as he's been without a team since I think last summer, and hasnt been really training I dont think with any team, beyond maybe in spain around his residence. But he has that skill that moreno and the players of the 'golden' generation of bolivian football all had, he can pass, trap, distribute out the back like any of the best players on that squad. He started off as a def. mid, and then turned into a midfielder. You can tell through his distribution abilities out the back.

Posted by: BolivianDCFan | March 22, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Great. That's just great. We sign a 37 year old defender. He'll play 3 games, blow out an ankle, knee, or both, and we'll still be stuck.

Posted by: Ron16 | March 22, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Did Barklage get re-signed?

Posted by: Dynaformer | March 22, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Barklage seems certain to be on the final roster

Posted by: Steve Goff | March 22, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

even an 18 year old can blow out a knee or ankle or whatever. I am not sure age has a whole lot to do with it.

If it improves the team I don't really care how old he is. Given the realities of MLS finding fresh players is always going to be a struggle.

Besides if Old Man Moreno ends up scoring all the goals once the real season gets going I wonder if anyone will complain about how old HE is. I think Jaime has something to prove to all of the "fans" who say he is too old and slow. He's the smartest player we have ever had on this team. And I think since he came back to us he has learned how to take care of himself from a fitness perspective. These guys with experience don't necessarily need as many raw tools as they have learned how to work best with what they've got.

I am certainly more optimistic going into this year than I was last year. We've finally got a good GK again which should help immensely.

Posted by: fedssocr | March 22, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Count me in the "Hail Najar" chorus...

One other question I have about roster rules is the promise of a new reserve league. Will that be this year? Sounds to me like this would probably mean an increase in roster size -- at least by one. Otherwise starting field players would have to be involved. Maybe this is one reason why MLS postponed cut-down dates? In addition to the questions about Homegrown players, do we know if 24 is still the baseline roster size?

Posted by: fischy | March 22, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I like the Pena signing. And I look forward to seeing Najar as well. Kudos to the club for finding quality players that local youth coaches have developed, and for continuing their development.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | March 22, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Signs of a long season ahead (and a weak roster inherited from the prior year): [1] team signs really old player(s) [2] team signs really young players [3] player waived from comparable club immediately appears in starting lineup

Posted by: Jphubba | March 22, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

So I just got my DCU tickets and noted the box they came in gave "Historic RFK Stadium" as the address. It's historic, all right.

Posted by: CapitolHill2 | March 22, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting that the team sticks with Tino at C-mid and Jaime up top. Given Jaime's speed issues I would think about switching them and see if Jaime can play distributer. Maybe not enough gas in the tank for that?

Posted by: dsheon1 | March 22, 2010 10:42 AM


Midfield would require covering a lot more ground and tracking back to defend and link up with defenders. I doubt the wear and tear over a full season is something Jaime could handle at this stage. Plus, with the way he's been hitting the back of the net lately, keep him close to the goal!

Posted by: Kenobi | March 22, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I would love to see a reconciliation of the salary cap before and after the deal.

Is the entire increase going to get absorbed by the guys earning less than $40k today.

My fear is that there may actually be less money available for the solid veterans earning $40k- $150k/season.

Posted by: david93 | March 22, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

There are still some holes in this roster that I just cannot envision being well-filled any time soon. Does rebuilding mean uncompetitive this year? Because we are paper thin.

Posted by: dcbird | March 22, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Re: There are still some holes in this roster that I just cannot envision being well-filled any time soon. Does rebuilding mean uncompetitive this year? Because we are paper thin.

Posted by: dcbird | March 22, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

This seems like a THINNER version of last year's thin roster. It kind of makes you wonder, though, about the players who were cut over the past 2 months.

MLS is a funny league though. A couple new players in July can make a lot of difference. Let's hope that the on-field product in the first half of the season is better than we're anticipating. Regardless, I'll be using my season tix at every match.

Posted by: DWE4 | March 22, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Really hoping the Pena deal will come through. It will be great to have a reliable central defensive pairing, regardless of age.

I'm also not sold on the usefulness of Shipalane as long as Khumalo remains healthy.

I don't agree with Goff about Quinn though. He hasn't appeared in any recent preseason games, and I think the team would be fine to stick with just Perkins and Hamid until Wicks returns in a couple weeks.

Posted by: DCUMD | March 22, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

"a backline that will probably include Rodney Wallace, 21, Dejan Jakovic, 24, and Devon McTavish, 25, in the lineup."

So does this mean that Onalfo will play Wallace at left back this year? I say "yay" to that idea.

I really hope that Bryan Namoff can back to game shape real soon; Namoff-Pena-Jakovic-Wallace would work as an MLS back four in my book.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 22, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Wallace and Castillo on the left might prove a threatening combination.

Posted by: delantero | March 22, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Re: Fantasizers

I've played this MLS fantasy in the past, it's pretty good.

Posted by: delantero | March 22, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Now that the Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place, everyone can concentrate on the upcoming MLS season.

It will be interesting to see how United fares this year. Let's hope they make the playoffs.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | March 22, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

With respect ot Goff's point about Quinn and Hamid -- it does seem odd given that Hamid has been playing and Quinn has not. However, it may be that the team is seeing something in practice that we don't get to see. Perhaps, they don't see Hamid as ready to play, and maybe they think Quinn is more ready. If so, then the interest in the possible interest in a Homegrown slot for Hamid would make sense. Even if Hamid doesn't get slotted into that kind of off-MLS roster situation, it would still make sense to have the more seasoned Quinn around until Wicks comes back -- plus, having 3 keepers is not unusual.

I think we can safely assume Wallace will be at left back. That was a given when they brought in Castillo.

I am still very concerned about having Tino in the center and ???? at right wing -- but, I'm a little encouraged by Morsink's comments about Tino being the best player he's ever played with. Maybe Tino will be a lot better in the middle than I'm expecting.

I'm with DWE4, though about July. Whatever the exact amount of cap room is (and I'm sure it has to be at least $500k, but could be close to twice that amount), there's definitely room to add some serious talent this summer.

Posted by: fischy | March 22, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

@delantero, is there an Insider league?

@Kev29, prior to the Burch injury it seemed as though Burch was getting most of the time at LB, but Onalfo was also playing some at CB with Wallace outside. Some of that was also before Castillo arrived, so Wallace was playing LM.

Let's hope Wallace puts any lingering LB questions to rest.

Posted by: benonthehill | March 22, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't use ink if we're putting in McTavish's name in the starting line-up. I thought James looked very dangerous going forward from right back against TFC. I realize that DC had a man-advantage, but I think James may get a look at right back. Either way, it's not Namoff, but the back line is still much improved over last year.

The problem with this team will be maintaining possession and scoring. When they're picking up guys cut by other teams and projecting real roles for them, it feels like shades of last year with DiRaimondo and Vaughn...and that's not good.

Posted by: fischy | March 22, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

As ever, I'm worried about our right-wing, but we finally have some strong play from the left wing..... Oops, I forgot I promised to leave politics out of it.... ;)

Posted by: fischy | March 22, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

@delantero, is there an Insider league?

Not yet. How about some energetic, self-starter get it going!!?

Posted by: delantero | March 22, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

>>I wrote Mr. Chad re: MLS column


First, it (the column) just wasn't funny. People who get paid to write satire should at least say something that makes ya chuckle, don't you think? It was a yawner from start to whimpering finish.

Secondly, it ignores the higher end of the MLS fan base, in places like Seattle (averaged 31,000), Toronto (sold out stadium at every game), LA, and Salt Lake (20K) and the like in favor of sad arguments to support your premise. Let's see, the Dodgers averaged 46,000, but the A's a measly 17,000. And that's in a league that's at least as old and boring as you!

Lastly, American soccer fans have the highest number of ticket applications for the World Cup in South Africa. Chew on that.


>>And the response:
Actually, if you wanted a serious discussion about MLS attendance, it's pretty sluggish.

MLS numbers have been stagnant since its inception.

Last year, all but three of its teams suffered declines from 2008.
Some of the numbers are inflated with doubleheaders involving international games.

(San Jose, for instance, averaged 12,000 for 14 of its matches, but when you include the 61,000 that showed up for Barcelona-Chivas, the season average balloons to over 14,000.

Seattle, Toronto and Real Sale Lake are great success stories -- however, most of the teams have not followed suit.

And MLS TV numbers remain microscopic.

Posted by: delantero | March 22, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Sign Graye. He looked the best of them, from what little i've seen anyway.

Posted by: StewartDC8 | March 22, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Anyone heard a price for the new online MLS viewing package?

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | March 22, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

This friend of Andrew Quinn is cheered by news that Goff thinks he will get the nod.

Posted by: DCUSince96 | March 22, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

@fischy: I am all comfy and cozy knowing I am warmly embraced at the bosom of the nanny state. Cradle to grave... life is good! Up next: universal food coverage. Everyone eats for free!

As for Norman Chad, he's a nitwit. I stopped reading him more than 10 years ago. Snarky is funny for a little while, then it gets tiresome.

DCU96... Andrew's dad, Tony, is a great guy. Wonderful photographer, too.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | March 22, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

@JacobfromAtlanta - nothing definitive, but I've heard $39.95 tossed around a lot. Double the price of last year, but then again, the quality looks to have more than doubled, and the previous deal was almost self-evidently too good to be true, or at least too good to last very long.

Posted by: VercengetorixII | March 22, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't come as a surprise to devotees of this blog, but United's plan looks to be; "let's slide thru the first third or so of the season with what we've got (blood the newbies), take a look during the World Cup break and see what is out there, and then bring in what talent we can (with the cap money we've "saved" ) for the stretch run." As we have all seen, the final third of the season is when things happen in MLS.

Posted by: Ruthie1 | March 22, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm looking at MLS' site...this information about a Direct Kick free preview:

"Major League Soccer has collaborated with all three providers to offer a FREE PREVIEW period, Friday, March 26, during the opening week of the season known as MLS First Kick presented by Dick's Sporting Goods."

Am I to understand that this free preview applies only to Friday night's Chivas game -- or is it a weekend thing, including both games on Saturday night? Does anyone know for sure?

Posted by: fischy | March 22, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Well, I won't be adding Jon Busch to my fantasy squad...

Posted by: Reignking | March 22, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I, too, got an e-mail response from Norman Chad on his column (italics added):

I actually like soccer.

I also like having fun with all of sport, and MLS' miniscule TV ratings and start-and-stop growth is something I write about maybe once a year.

I also make fun of the WNBA and NHL's miniscule TV ratings.

In this case, I was making jokes because of the barely-avoided MLS players strike.

Posted by: SportzNut21 | March 22, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Whoops...I meant to italicise everything after "I actually like soccer"!

Posted by: SportzNut21 | March 22, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

With apologies to Bruce Jay Friedman ("Steambath"):

BIEBERMAN. (Getting up.) We produced Norman Chad.

OLD-TIMER. Congratulations. . . . (To the BROKER.) Who the f*** is Norman Chad?

Posted by: dccal | March 22, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

BReaking News: Andy Najar is officially a member of the first team!

Vamos Uniiiited!!!

Posted by: zizou1972 | March 22, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Najar will wear #14. big shoes to fill.

Posted by: hungrypug | March 22, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Did the article say "37" or "27" year old Juan Manuel Pena... I mean at 37 you might as well put Juan Antonio Samaranch or Juan Valdez in front of poor Troy Perkins... because all three of them combined are going to get baked w/the speed we will be seeing. I love the Troy Perkins signing but just wish we would have also picked up central midfielder & an attacking speedy front runner. we are asking Troy to do way to much.

Posted by: Zipfutbol | March 22, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

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