By Ridge Mahoney
Senior Editor, Soccer America
Already D.C. United and Houston are in the news, both for long-term reasons as
well as the here-and-now.
Because of their qualification for the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, they petitioned
the MLS Players' Union for permission to open preseason camp early. Permission
was so granted and both teams start camp Monday, a week earlier than their 11
Early betting - if there is a such a thing regarding MLS - has D.C. and Houston
as favorites in their conferences. D.C. posted the league's best record in 2006
before stumbling in the playoffs for the second straight season, and Houston
rolled to the MLS Cup title with a strong playoff run.
In addition to their league clashes (the MLS schedule has yet to be finalized)
they also will meet in the SuperLiga. The venue for their group meeting Aug. 1
has been shifted from RFK to Robertson Stadium as baseball rears its conflicting
Baseball's Nationals are playing on that date at RFK and so rather than seek an
alternate venue close to home, D.C. has agreed to play in Texas. United plays
Morelia and Club America in late July before winding up group play in Houston.
Only the top two teams advance and in a tough group, that final match will be
Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear has overseen a rather tranquil offseason,
though catalytic midfielder Dwayne DeRosario is still the subject of
The past two months in D.C. have been hectic. A rapid-fire series of coaching
changes brought Tommy Soehn, chief assistant to former head coach
Peter Nowak, full circle back to United for his first assignment as the top
man. Teen marquee item Freddy Adu was traded to Real Salt Lake, Alecko
Eskandarian is now in Toronto, Luciano Emilio is the latest signing
from South America (via Honduras, in this case, for the Brazilian striker).
Soehn had been considered for the recent openings in Kansas City, Dallas, and
Chivas USA as well as other jobs the past few years. Curt Onalfo got the
job in Kansas City, Soehn interviewed for the Dallas and Chivas USA jobs but
pulled out of those discussions in hope of landing his top choice.
''I've been here the last three years helping to build this team and some of our
young guys are ready to take their opportunity and run with it,'' said Soehn, who
played with Nowak on the 1998 Chicago team that won the double and also played
in Dallas. ''We've built up some assets to get players who are exciting players
and are going to fit into the structure of our team and they're good people.
''Peter and I, although we're a bit different in personality, we definitely had a
chemistry that really worked. Our philosophies were very similar yet we were
very different and challenged each other to get the best out of our guys. For
that, we'll be friends for life. We went through a lot the past three years. On
the field, his reading of the game was probably better than anyone I've ever
Reading the games and his players will be critical for Soehn. Last year, D.C.
blasted through the first half of the season but cooled off in the final months.
Jaime Moreno struggled with fatigue and several other players lost the
sharpness that had overpowered teams earlier in the season.
''Our club is about winning, our club is about the team first, our team is about
doing things the right way, about playing the game in the way that we consider
to be the right way,'' said president Kevin Payne, who hired Soehn as the
fifth head coach in team history.
''Those things all sound obvious but you'd be amazed at how many teams are
actually not about that stuff. Everybody pays lip service to that stuff but
every day is a different equation. I was pretty nervous when Tommy was talking
to other teams but fortunately for us, nobody else made him an offer.''