(I wrote this before D.C. started playing, so some parts of this *may* be stale despite my updating, but given SBN’s dumbassery and subsequent coverage on our end, hopefully the general gist is here, OK?)

We’re a couple of days since D.C. United kicked their first truly competitive soccer ball, and it only makes sense to move on to what things look like in 2024 right? No? Well, let’s do that for a second anyway.

Read more: Looking past 2023 into 2024.

When I wrote this at first, Mateusz Klich had just been minted as a Designated Player and it marked the first time I can remember D.C. having all 3 DP spots filled. Then Taxi Fountas did what Taxi Fountas had a habit of doing, and he was bought out in August. In the beginning of the year I started to do a little bit of work on who D.C. could potentially wave goodbye to at the end of this season, and some in-season nips and tucks have been made. By rough math and quick count, I’ve got this list:

  • Derrick Williams
  • Russell Canouse
  • Donovan Pines
  • Ruan (option for 2024)
  • Eric Davis (options for 2024 and 2025)
  • Brendan Hines-Ike (options for 2024 and 2025)
  • Andy Najar (option for 2024)
  • Ravel Morrison (option for 2024)
  • Nigel Robertha (option for 2024)
  • Gaoussou Samaké (options for 2024 and 2025)
  • Jose Fajardo (options for 2024 and 2025)
  • Yamil Asad (options for 2024 and 2025)
  • Luis Zamudio (options for 2024 and 2025)
  • Ted Ku-DiPietro (options for 2024 and 2025)
  • Erik Hurtado (option for 2024)
  • Gabriel Pirani (loan expiration)

Now, some of those decisions are easy, like retaining KDP. Picking up the buy option for Pirani at a U22 position would allow them to retain their extra Designated Player spot, a third U22 spot and take an international spot which would be vacated by one of Morrison, Samaké or Robertha, though I’d assert Davis and/or Fajardo could be added to that group based on contract and performance. At a third goalkeeper not on the cap, Zamudio has promise and should be retained unless he wants to go.

Where things get tricky are in the categories for Williams and Hines-Ike. The latter has an option, but is injury prone, the former appears to be more the first choice despite being on a TAM deal and doubles Hines-Ike’s hit ($750k to $375k). Can you negotiate Williams down? If you want to keep him, sure. But if Steve Goff’s notes about Pines taking on a new deal are true, he will occupy a senior roster spot (currently does not count to the cap as a homegrown, the next deal would count), so that forces you to make a choice between the veterans.

The two other hard choices are Canouse and Najar, but sentimental for different reasons. When Canouse is healthy and on, his destroyer work in midfield is among the league’s best. He’s been here since 2017 and does a bunch of things for the community. But that $500,000 budget charge is hard to look at. And Najar? Well, at 30 he’s been through a lot at both club and country levels, and late in the season definitely wasn’t the same type of player he was under Hernan Losada, and his cap hit now is STILL less than Canouse’s. But this is Andy Najar, whose family has been around the organization for almost two decades, and many remember from his first tour with D.C.. There’s a reason why many faces brighten when asked about Andy Najar’s initial run with D.C. (and why I went in on a group order to get a Najar Anderlecht jersey back in the day which I still have), and it’s because you want the kid to succeed. Now he has free agency and some teams may take a spin on him. Would it hurt if he left? (Damn right.) Would D.C. like to and should spend that money on other priorities? (…Probably)

Granted, a LOT of stuff has to happen between now and when the rosters should even be compliant ahead of the first kickoff, but what I know is back before Hernan Losada was on ANYONE’S RADAR for an MLS coaching job, I said this:

At this point, we’re all back to where the default position on D.C. United should be at the moment, which is they have to nail the coaching hire for two big reasons: on-field cohesion is an easy one, and a choice that has a vision in place and is both prepared to implement it and allowed the resources to do so would do a world of good for the club.

And, well, they didn’t do that! But looking at what was done under Losada’s helm, while roster flexibility was accomplished to a degree (vis a vis the trade of Paul Arriola for allocation money), things collapsed in on themselves with how Losada handled things, or really the one thing, the conditioning of players, which seems to have caused a revolt among players and between that and players getting ground into soft tissue injuries, resulted in his dismissal. Then when Wayne Rooney came in, Julian Gressel was traded for…allocation money.

While it remains to be seen how Losada pans out in Montreal (though he at least gets into the 2023 postseason), whomever the new D.C. coach is should have a lot more at his disposal heading into 2024, they should have something along the lines of:

  • Two international roster spots
  • One Designated Player spot
  • Between 5-7 roster spots that would count towards the roster budget/cap
  • $500,000 of acquired allocation money to be used for signings (perhaps more depending on Williams’ status), in addition to the offseason money allocations. Adding onto this briefly, DC currently has six players they signed with TAM. This number could easily be halved with the departures of Morrison, Robertha and Williams, and two of the three remaining players (Martin Rodriguez, Mohanad Jeahze) are rehabilitating long-term injuries coming into 2024. Those players could be put on the injured list, and replacement players could be signed to fill those voids.

Regardless of how you stand on Losada’s managerial approach when he was sacked, whomever takes the reins for the Black-and-Red is almost certainly going to have more flexibility than Losada or (arguably) Rooney did when taking D.C.’s coaching reins (this part wrote in February and left in).

But more concerning, at the end of the 2023 season, D.C. United find themselves where they were at the end of 2020, trying to find ways to nail the head coach hire, as whomever it is will have a much more consequential imprint on how he can make on the team once announced and publicly presented, whether he knows it or not.

ByRyan Keefer

Doing D.C./Loudoun United things on here.

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Bryan McEachern

I’d just assume keep Canouse. I think he can fit most schemes brought in by the new coach. Fan and community friendly.

Stunned Duck

I would definitely keep Canouse. So, so many other ways to save money here. Like, for starters, find somebody else to pay Dajome’s salary.

As you note, KDP and Pirani are obvious keepers. Zamudio is fine.

I’m OK with Ruan and Najar as situational players, but they may not be happy with that or with the associated wages. Davis appears good enough and would fill a spot that otherwise takes a lot of effort to replace. If Pines is getting a raise, Williams and Hines-Ike should both go, they’re not enough bang for buck.

The rest should all be swept out the door. Leaving…

GK: Miller, Bono, Zamudio
DF: Birnbaum, Davis, Pines, Najar, Akinmboni, Greene
MF: Klich, Pirani, Canouse, Durkin, Ruan, Hopkins, Santos and/or Dajome if we can’t get rid of them
F: Benteke, KDP, Fletcher
INJ: Rodriguez, Jeahze

If it were up to me, I’d then be aggressive in the trade market and drastically overhaul the list. Hang on to Birnbaum, Canouse, Pirani, and KDP, and treat everything else as fair game. Benteke and Klich were perfectly fine as DPs, but they’re at win-now ages and we are not in a position to support that.

Gee, it was fun to take five minutes and pretend like something intelligent might happen here. I do miss having a foundation for optimism of any kind.


All of this is doable if we have a decent GM in place before the playoffs end. Kasper and Mairs aren’t going to rock the boat. Goff made it sound like the process is going somewhere rather soon.

Regarding the fullbacks, I don’t think Najar gets a shot with another team in the league. He’s far too injury prone and still wants to play for Honduras. That itself is fine, but spotty availability is something we cannot accept entering the next season for an expected contributor. It doesn’t seem like Greene will ever be a starter, but if he’s got a cheap contract that runs through next year, let him prove me wrong. LB might actually be in a decent place if Jeahze’s recovery goes well.

If we’re really going to get aggressive with the CBs, we should probably be looking at getting someone who would start over Birnbaum. Not like, necessarily replace him altogether, but someone who is definitely the best player in the back. The CB1 or 2 spot has been a problem on and off, first when Boswell was shipped to Atlanta, and then when Brillant retired (and maybe even before either of them left, given their lack of pace). I like the thought of hanging on to Pines since I don’t think Birnbaum has many years left as a player, and the hypothetical upgrade would then have a decent starting partner.


As Benteke ages, I think he’ll still be useful as a target man and beast in the middle. And Klich turns in to a box-to-box midfielder (rather than an A-mid) or a D-mid in a double pivot. I think those are two DP decisions a lot of fans originally thought “past their sell-by dates and actually should be good through the life of their contracts. I think the key is getting a DP attacker (either forward or A-mid) who is younger.


I take it you’re not making an assumption that MLS drastically increases the salary cap and changes the acquisition rules? For what it’s worth, I would let every player you mentioned walk. None are reliable, quality players that have a winning pedigree.


I haven’t been impressed with Najar’s contributions down the second half, but he was consistently effective in the first half of the season. So much depends on how they play next year, but he doesn’t belong as a CB. Out wide he makes sense and allows the team to talk to Santos about moving on or hanging it up — which would free up a lot of money — though the team will definitely require depth, as Najar can’t be relied on to stay healthy.

Canouse ain’t great, but it all depends on whether the team has any options.

Pirani — U22 would be the way to go here, though I’m not sold on him. However, Ryan ignores the rules on U22. If DCU go after a 3rd DP, that really limits their ability to add another U22 player. Third DP would have to be a Young DP (under 24), or have a deal below the TAM max (1.651M now) — Fountas was just over that amount by about $60K, so they couldn’t add a U22 player to Durkin. The team could also move Durkin out of the U22 slot with TAM (he’s met the minimum 2 years).

I could be persuaded that the team would do better with 2 more U22s than a 3rd DP, but it all really depends on who they can get in those slots. Again, not sold on Pirani. He was signed hastily. There might be better options out there.

Williams is good enough. A little pricey, but not at Rodriguez levels, and I’d rather have Williams than Jeahze. Hines-Ike isn’t worth it at half his price — though expecting another decent year out of Birnbaum might be too much. Has the team seen enough in Sargis to play him? I’m inclined to move on from Hines-Ike, but the team will have to replace him.

Definitely pick up Ku-Dipietro’s option — and maybe get him a new deal. Ruan and Davis weren’t world-beaters, though of the two, Ruan seemed more dangerous. Davis’ one good quality was he could serve up a decent dead ball kick. Haven’t seen Zamudio, so I have no opinion. The other players on the list should be allowed to walk.


Najar’s salary isn’t much in terms of cap space and being situational considering his age and injury profile. Considering his history with the club and the area keeping him around as a situation player isn’t horrible.


Why aren’t you sold on Pirani? He’s young but you can see what he can become. He’s not at his prime years yet but the flashes are there and it seems like Teddy and him can become a really good pairing.

Brendan Cartwright

Najar and Ruan were a nice pairing on the right. Ruan brought speed that unbalanced defenses and was usually good for about one decent cross per game. Najar has ball skills, and does better with linking play and trickery. Both of them are kind of brittle, and I’m a little surprised that Jacob Greene didn’t get more time on the right, since that’s his primary position. I think you can roll with that combo again for one more year, but that might be Najar’s swan song. Greene gives you depth.

On the left, I don’t think Santos is going anywhere. Davis is one of the better crossers and dead ball strikers on the team, so I think his option will get picked up, and the team spent relatively big on Jeahze last year, and he should be back too (although caveats about returning from a major injury). That’s a lot of options at left back before even getting to Greene. Samake needs to get his green card, or otherwise it doesn’t make too much sense to keep him around.

Brendan Cartwright

Also, because I like stupid counting stats, if Najar plays in 17 more games, he’ll enter the top 10 of games played in DC United history. He would be the second homegrown in that 10, after Bill Hamid.


Start with the proposition that absolutely no one on this roster is untouchable. The macro problem here is that Dumpster Diving Dave (DDD) signed a bunch of very average players for premium prices. Williams, for example, is fine, but not at over $700K. Re-signing Birnbaum was a mistake. Najar is done, there is no magic potion that will heal his hamstrings, he is a latter day Chris Pontius. Santos should be told to hang them up or transfer him on a free to the Belizean Second Division — he is utterly useless and a pickup that made no sense a year ago. I would also pass on Pirani. The guy is in the second percentile in MLS on expected assists. He has one goal in over 800 minutes of play. He’s something, but not a playmaker – hard pass on the purchase option.
Really, all you can reasonable expect from 2024 is that a competent GM and coach are hired and they begin to reshape the roster in their shared vision. Of course, that muppet Levien probably will hire Chris Klein who will make all of us feel nostalgic for DDD. This is such a broken, irrelevant franchise.

Brendan Cartwright

United was waiting to make a decision on Wayne until they got input from a new GM (or until Wayne made the decision for them), and I suspect that’s what it will be with Pirani. I think he’s got a lot of talent, and a lot of room to grow. The lack of assists is troubling, and his shooting is pretty bad, but he links well and perhaps those other skills can be developed. So it would be up to a new GM to decide if DC is the place to develop those skills, or if they think they can find a new player that’s an upgrade (perhaps more of an actual playmaker). Either approach has merit. United just has to know what it’s able to do: develop players internally, or identify and bring in new transfers.

If they can’t do either, that’s a huge failure.


Ok. Don’t agree. Najar is not a starter, clearly, but he’s not done. If someone knows how to manage his minutes, he can still contribute and make a difference. Pirani is 21 and has been here for less than half the season. He didn’t come and rescue the team, I don’t think that he was brought here for that. In fact, I would argue than in his limited games, he has shown a lot more than Nigel Robertha who probably doubles him on games. And at least to my eyes, Pirani is better than Dajome and Fajardo. I agree that it would be best for Santos to retire, he was a very decent player when younger but I think time has taken a bit of his game. And I know you are bitter and all, but be real, no team simply starts from zero, much as you think everyone is useless. Also, it feels like for a few fans, with no Ben Olsen to use as a punch bag anymore, they decided that Birbaum will do. I don’t get it.


Both Losada and Rooney tried to manage Najar’s minutes and they still were missing him for multiple games in a row. With the salary cap and roster limits in MLS, you simply can’t have a periodically available player on your team. Najar is done, full stop. Saying Pirani is “better” than either Dàjome or Fajardo is damning with faint praise. Fajardo will only return if his option is picked up and I doubt that will occur. Dàjome is an over $800K boat anchor that Vancouver was so ready to dump that they agreed to pay part of his salary for this year. Next year, the whole bill falls on DCU. At best he is depth, but not at that price. Again, this goes to my main point that DDD overpays for average talent which hamstrings the team’s ability to improve. As for Birnbaum, look at his stats — he is no longer elite and really is a shell of the player he was 5 years ago. I’m not using him as a punching bag, it’s just a fact that he is, at best, a rotational player at this point in his career. He has chronic ankle issues and has suffered who knows how many concussions. I truly worry about his life after soccer when the bill raised by those concussions comes due.

Bryan McEachern

spot on

Bryan McEachern

“Chris Klein?!?! Is he available?!?!”

-Kasper muses while enjoying a latte in Leesburg…..

Steve Comer

Agree with Cntl-alt-delete. Pirani reminds a bit too much like Quaranta: tends to hit the Corona sign more than the back of the net. I am a little more tolerant of growing home talent than bring in young talent until we have the vision and staff to do so. If he stays, both we and Pirani will be disappointed with the results.

Brendan Cartwright

My preferred path forward kind of relies on getting a coach that’s good at developing youngsters. I think the third DP should be a Young DP, because that gives us some cap room to manage all of our large contracts for mediocre players (the reality is that we’re going to have to keep a bunch of them next year), but that it would also allow us to sign Pirani and two more U-22 players. There’s a lot of risk with young, highly paid players, but it could allow us to have a core that develop together along with some of our young homegrowns, and maybe even our top 10 draft pick. As Benteke, Klich, Birnbaum, Santos, etc. age out, that young core will be coming of age, and we build around them.

This kind of has me leaning towards Issa Tall as the GM. Columbus hasn’t nailed a Young DP really, but they’ve done much better with DPs in general (Zelarayan, Cucho, Rossi, Nagbe, etc) than Nashville. Mackay helped get Mukhtar, which is an absolute home run, but the rest of their DPs have been pretty lousy. Walker Zimmerman is an exception, but he falls under Nashville’s real strength, which is making signings from within MLS.

Columbus, on the other hand, is good at getting DPs, good at getting players from withing MLS, good at bringing up youth, pretty good at nailing international signings too. Both would probably be okay, but for where we are, what we’d ideally want to do, the Columbus model seems preferable. Then it’s also about finding the right coach, too.


Forget nailing the head coaching hire right now. DC needs to knock this GM hire out of the park. A competent GM *should* set this team up for the foreseeable future and ideally give the organization some semblance of an identity for the first time since…..??


Olsen and Kasper actually did a good job together in the mid-2010s, much as people hate on Kasper now (and he should not have been given personnel authority again after last season). That was an era where you could succeed via the moneyball strategy. Currently, the teams on the up and up are the ones that have a long-term plan, with both coaching and management on the same page, with sufficient resources to execute it. Philly has kicked our teeth in for so fucking long and we haven’t come close to thinking about why their team wins and we don’t. Houston is playing great soccer with limited resources and our old coach. Cincinnati won the Supporter’s Shield after years of being inarguably the worst team. They were an absolute mess. There’s no reason we have to be a bottom third team yet a again next year when we are honestly in a much better position than some of the aforementioned teams were.


The mid-2010 were kind of feast-famine though. Sometimes it worked out and sometimes it just imploded.


I’d agree. “Success” maybe in the sense that DC outperformed expectations but they were never a top 5 MLS team. The only time they were was around 2019ish and I remember LAFC came to DC and played United off the field on national television. DC was definitely harder to beat under Kasper and Olsen, for the most part, but even that is 100% true.


There was the miracle turn-around season in 2014, but then DC regressed to the mean immediately after.


I’m glad you remember 2014 because when I read your “never a top 5 team” I was ready to jump and point out that we were in fact at top 5 team in 2014. By numbers we were No. 3. Only 6 points away from winning the Shield, top 2 in defense. And the only reason why didn’t go far that year is because if I remember correctly, a few key players got injured towards the end. I really loved that team, no big star but many solid players who played hard and had fun.

Stunned Duck

Per The Athletic, leading GM candidates are AGMs Ally Mackay (Nashville) and Issa Tall (Columbus). Solid track records in both cases; I have no qualms so long as the club is negotiating in good faith (i.e. is legitimately going to give the hire proper autonomy).


Without knowing anything about these candidates I’m already excited. Both orgs have shown pretty solid scouting and player acquisition records.

Anyone that’s been in and around C-bus is intriguing to me as Tim Bezbatchenko has done an impressive job wherever he’s gone, that being Toronto and C-bus during arguably each franchise’s most successful points. Not to mention how dreadful Toronto was before and have been since his departure.

Nashville is equally exciting as they’ve just been a steady and good team since they’ve come in. I think part of that is solid coaching as Nashville is just hard to play and score against, but of course they’ve nailed most of their big signings. Hopefully this is a win-win scenario for DC no matter the hire!

Brendan Cartwright

Tom Bogert and Pablo at the Athletic are reporting that Ally Mackay (assistant GM of Nashville) and Issa Tall (assistant GM of the Crew) are finalists for the GM role in DC. I don’t know much about either of them, but Nashville and especially Columbus are some pretty well-built, well-run organizations. This seems like good news.

In even better news, it’s been confirmed that Stewart Mairs interviewed for the job, but is not considered a candidate. I think United needs a clean slate, and that means no more of Mairs’s decision making. Sorry Stewart. It’s unclear if there are other finalists, or just those two.

The real worry is that Dave Kasper will still be around and manage to find a way to undermine the newcomers. He had Lucy Rushton reporting to him (which, what the fuck?), and the owners say the new GM won’t report to him. He’ll moved to some advisory role. But just get him the fuck out of there. I don’t care if they put him in Chad Ashton’s oubliette, he needs to be gone. The man has a talent for sticking around which is honestly unrivaled, but at a certain point that becomes self-preservation and has nothing to do with the good of the club. Cast him loose!

Brendan Cartwright

It would be fun to go with the Columbus hire, just to be able to say, “Rebuilding DC United? Issa Tall order!”

Bryan McEachern

You beat to it….rim clap on the drum….

Stunned Duck

“Chad Ashton’s oubliette” is a great turn of phrase.

Bryan McEachern

Agreed, I had to look it up. (Which is embarrassing, as I played D&D in the 70’s….)

To assist the Commentariat:

From Middle French: A dungeon, with the only entrance being from the ceiling…..
(note, exit wasn’t mentioned)

Bren, you have been rec’d for glorious use of language.

Brendan Cartwright

It translates basically to “a place of forgetting.”

Bryan McEachern

If we only could…..


I’m not sure even advisory role is warranted, especially since both those candidates come from MLS. Time for him to move on.

Brendan Cartwright

Heartily agreed!

Brendan Cartwright

Wayne Rooney has been named as the Birmingham manager. Not really surprising, it was a pretty poorly kept secret. Good luck to him, though. Pete Shuttleworth is going with him, which is also not a surprise, but Carl Robinson is also apparently joining his staff. This comes as a big relief to me, as it would seem to remove him from consideration for DC’s coaching spot.

Bryan McEachern

I think Duran Duran started off in Birmingham.

Brendan Cartwright

Apparently DC reached out to Orlando about interviewing Ricardo Moreira for their GM position, but Orlando denied them (even though Moreira is out of contract at the end of the year). I think he would have been a very good candidate, and I’m glad United was thinking in those terms. Bummer that Orlando shut them down, but we might be on to some other good ones in Mackay and Tall.

Will Nelson

Are we doing a Cake or Death series?

Bryan McEachern

You always get cake in my book for excellent rugby coverage!

Will Nelson

Thank you.


If I were the new GM I’d look for redundancies and try and move the more expensive option.

Williams v Hines-Ike. To me, there’s very little difference between them. They both are as error prone as the next and they both struggled with fitness. Hines-Ike at half the price would be my choice.

Davis v Jeahze v Santos. That’s a lot money tied up in that spot. Of the three, I’ve determined Santos is the worst option on the field so he has to go. I think they can keep Davis and Jeahze as Davis also had some positional flexibility being able to play in a back three. Also, I thought Davis played well in his minutes but he’s older so best to have a good back up or starter ahead of him.

Hurtado v Fajardo v Robertha. Robertha is the one to move here, he’s over paid and has never produced. You can see the talent but it’s never come to fruition. I would also keep Hurtado over Fajardo, push comes to shove, because he’s dirt cheap and money should be spent on a better option than Fajardo, bumping Hurtado down to a respectable third string option.

Najar v Ruan v Greene. I love Najar but he can’t stay healthy and though his salary is reasonable DC really can’t afford to carry a player who will be unavailable half the season. Ruan brings much needed speed and unwanted frustration in equal parts, but as a jumping off point he’s good. I thought Greene was fine in his minutes, not sure why he couldn’t get any the last month or so. Still, he’s a perfect fit as a low cost back up.

I’m not as confident grading players like Rodriguez and Hopkins against each other. To my memory, Rodriguez was better than Hopkins but just as ineffectual. Still, he was in a similar situation to Pirani, coming into a bad team half way through the season. Also like Pirani, I’d like to see what he can do in a full season with the team, particularly with a new manager.

Brendan Cartwright

I’ve had some similar thoughts, particularly around Hurtado, Fajardo, and Robertha. I think you have to keep one of them for next season, and Robertha would be better served if he could nail down his green card. But yeah, his health has always been a problem. I think Fajardo could do better, but he hasn’t really. Furtado brings some size and energy that Fajardo does, but is cheaper and domestic.

I’ve talked elsewhere that I thought Najar and Ruan made a good platoon, so I’d be fine with both of them back, unless the new coach is just super high on Jacob Greene.

At left back, I’d also want Santos to go, but unless you’re buying him out, I don’t think you’re going to get someone to take him. Jeahze is also under contract, but you might be able to sell him back to Sweden or Scandinavia, but I’d really like to see what he can do. Davis is the easiest one to move, since the team could just decline his option. But he looks like one of the best crossers and deadball kickers on the roster now. It’s a tough logjam there, and the only obvious thing is saying goodbye to Gaoussou Samake (although he can also help himself by getting a green card).

I didn’t think much of Martin Rodriguez, but he’ll be back next year, and United really had no wing play, so now I’m curious about seeing him serving in balls to Benteke. But mostly I’m seeing him as a sunk cost.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x