The Colorado Rapids are in a mire at the moment, while their next opponents, DC United, are currently on a run of form for the season better than just about everyone expected. To get to know our final Eastern Conference foe of the season, we asked some questions to Ben of Black and Red United, our DC United blog. Read on to hear their answers to my questions, and check out their blog if you want to see what I had to say about the Rapids on their end.
BW: I'll be honest and say that I, along with most of the people I know, were baffled when Eddie Johnson was given a DP contract by DCU this off-season. Current suspension aside, how has he been for the Black & Red, and has he earned that paycheck?
B&RU: Eddie Johnson has been a frustrating player, both on and off the field. He has not been the elite goalscorer that he was in Seattle, but he does have four goals and two assists so far this season. His holdup play has been fairly good, and he does draw opposing defenses out of position just due to the fact that he is Eddie Johnson. However, when you give a player a designated player contract, you expect bigger production than this. He has given up on plays, and expressed frustration on the field towards teammates. This is his second suspension from the Disciplinary Committee this year, and they also fined him early in the season. And finally, the must recent Twitter dustup, in which we told a D.C. United fan that "I'm not here to please your city, buddy" has really soured a large chunk of the fanbase on him.
All that said, there is still time in the rest of the season for him to change all of that. If he goes on a goalscoring run through the balance of the season and then into the playoffs, people will come back around on him. At his current rate, however, it is a disappointment.
BW: What's been the biggest change from last year to this year to cause such a big turnaround in the standings?
B&RU: The biggest turnaround may sound kind of obvious, but it was that the front office acquired proven MLS talent in the offseason. Players like Fabian Espindola, Davy Arnaud, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Sean Franklin, and Chris Rolfe are not flashy names, but when you put all of those veterans around Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen, and Nick DeLeon it actually produces a MLS team capable of winning games. Between 2012 and 2013, the team made no real signings and thought that a team one non-call away from MLS Cup could repeat in the following year. In a league that is improving as quickly as MLS, that is just not possible.
BW: With an Open Cup and now a decent-looking record in 2014, how has the perception of Ben Olsen changed among DC fans? Is there still a tentative feel to it, or do you think he's finally caught on to being an MLS head coach?
B&RU: While many fans wanted Ben Olsen to be fired after the 2013 season, there were just as many fans (if not more) who wanted to see him given another chance this season. His teams are not like Real Salt Lake; they more mirror the way that Olsen was as a player. The aforementioned offseason after 2012 was the first in which Kevin Payne did not lead the player acquisitions, and so Olsen and general manager Dave Kasper had to grow into new roles. He is already D.C. United's longest serving manager, and I still think that he has room to grow.