There is nothing like a soccer Saturday. After a week at the office and two weeks of pinching one's pennies after taxes, it is finally time to sit back and enjoy some soccer. Whether it is abroad or here in the United States, it is the time of the year where the product abroad is getting into their final decisive matches and Major League Soccer teams are rounding into form. Perhaps this is no more evident than with D.C. United.
Patience in the stands and on the pitch is paying off for D.C. United. After beginning the season losing two straight matches, the club has turned around their early misfortunes, going undefeated in their last four matches (two wins, two draws).
It has not always been pretty. The club has relied heavily on a rebuilt defense to weather tremendous pressure and some luck on set pieces (four of the club's six goals are from set pieces). Dropping four points to the Columbus Crew and the Chicago Fire have to also be a concern as does the lack of goals from forward Eddie Johnson.
But perspective is everything in football. This is a team that is obviously much better than the 2013 side that won just three matches. And there are plenty of teams in the league that would kill to be in United's position right now, such as win-less clubs like the Chicago Fire, Portland Timbers, Montreal Impact, and San Jose Earthquakes. But how much better is the club? Let's find out tonight against Western Conference-leading F.C. Dallas.
Some news and notes:
Alessandro Del Piero is rumored to be heading to D.C. United.
Aside from this being a time of the year where MLS teams are finally starting to round into form and provide entertaining matches, it is also the time of year when the MLS rumor mill starts kicking in to high gear. Ever since the league was founded, it seems like a yearly ritual for rumors to be created about an aging European player to be linked with an MLS club.
For years it was Frank Lampard heading to the Los Angeles Galaxy. More recently, it has been Didier Drogba going to the Seattle Sounders, Kaka going to Orlando City S.C., Carlos Puyol to New York City F.C., and Ronaldinho going everywhere. Sometimes these rumors do come true. Beckham to the Galaxy and Henry to the New York Red Bulls spring to mind. But often these rumors are unfounded or a result of an agent looking to drive up the value of his/her player.
So it is with a grain of salt that these recent rumor of former Juventus striker Alessandro del Piero is coming to D.C. United. This appears to be a rumor that was started in the Italian press, where del Piero's every move is covered in great detail.
Del Piero just finished the season with Sydney F.C. in the Australian A-League. He is more widely known for his work with Juventus in Serie A where he scored 208 goals and won the Scudetto nine times and won the 1995-1996 UEFA Champions League Title. He also won the 2006 World Cup with Italy, where he scored the second goal in the semi-finals to defeat host Germany.
Del Piero's C/V is impressive and without a doubt he is one of the best players in football over the past twenty years. There is just one problem: he is 40 years old. In the short-term, he might be able to provide some help up front, where D.C. United has only scored one goal from the field of play. It is also worth mentioning that D.C. United owner Eric Tholnir does own Inter Milan in Italy and has been looking to strengthen United's presence in the country (and vice versa with Inter Milan here in the United States). Although Inter Milan and Juventus are two very different clubs with two very different groups of supporters, the name Del Piero carries tremendous weight across Italy.
But what would be the long-term goal of such a deal? The name Del Piero does not sell jersey's like a Beckham or an Henry here in the United States. D.C. United would be better off playing prized prospect forward Michael Seaton if they are looking to develop a long-term option at striker. Crazier deals have happened in MLS, but this just does not seem very likely to occur.
Goalkeeper Joe Willis was sent on loan to the Richmond Kickers
After serving as goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra's backup for the past three weeks, Willis was sent back to the Kickers for this weekend's match against the Dayton Dutch-Lions. Joining him back on loan are defenders Conor Shanosky and Jalen Robinson, and forward Christiano Francois. Midfielder Collin Martin and forward Michael Seaton will join them once their national team duties and injury issues have been respectively resolved.
The Willis move is interesting because it likely means that starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid is back to full fitness after injuring his toe during U.S. Men's National Team duty earlier in the month. With Hamid back in form that shifts Dykstra back down to the backup goalkeeper position for D.C. United. It also gives the club the flexibility to send Willis back down to Richmond, where he will be able to get additional playing time.