Rebuilding a team is not an exact science. Last weekend’s 1-0 loss (or perhaps a series is a more fitting term) against Real Salt Lake showed that for all of the excitement and grandeur over last week’s moves there is still much, much more work to be done. Sixteen points adrift with ten matches to play likely means that a fourth straight playoff appearance is unlikely. Odds are high that the rest of the season will be spent on bringing in new players, moving other players around the pitch, and others saying their final goodbyes.
This week proved that the only thing that United supporters can count on the rest of the season is more roster changes. This week saw the addition of goalkeeper Steve Clark, the end of Sebastian Le Toux’s time with the side, and an interim vacation from the nation’s capital for Travis Worra and Julian Buescher. How do all of these moves stack up? Let’s take a look and find out!
Addition: Goalkeeper Steve Clark
Signed from AC Horsens
Clark comes to United from AC Horsens of Denmark. Clark made 17 appearances with The Yellow Danger. Clark was only on a six month deal with the side which gave him the flexibility to turn a reasonable time in Northern Europe into a move back to Major League Soccer. He is perhaps best known for having served as the goalkeeper for the Columbus Crew. Clark finished third in the 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year race losing out to eventually Bill Hamid (more on him in a minute). In 100 appearances with Columbus Clark had 22 shutouts and 377 saves.
The Clark move seems to be made for two reasons. In the interim, it gives United a veteran backup for Hamid, who may or may not be in the next round of U.S. World Cup Qualifiers. Although his final season wasn’t exactly ideal (he had a Goals Against Average of 1.67) the Crew SC was also rather poor. The second coming of Edwin van der Saar he is not but he is a solid option and at the age of 31 he has a number of years left ahead of him.
In the long-term United have an option in case Hamid chooses to leave. Hamid’s contract is up at the end of the season and after many years of speculation this may be his last, best chance at earning a position with a European side. That might not sync in nicely with Audi Field but it is something that he is going to have to seriously consider.
Subtraction(for now:) Goalkeeper Travis Worra
Sent on loan to the Richmond Kickers
The Washington Post’s Steve Goff has reported that Worra will be sent on loan to the Kickers, their affiliate in the USL. An exact length of the loan has not been revealed. Worra,24, has made 18 starts in 19 appearances over the course of three seasons in D.C. serving as Hamid’s backup. Although he has filled in admirably for Hamid over the past couple of seasons his numbers this year are not particularly appealing. In five matches he has allowed 14 goals just four less than he allowed in 13 matches last season. United’s defense hasn’t particularly performed well for Hamid either but some of the mistakes that Worra has made seem to have emboldened United to make the loan.
Assuming the loan does go through the move should benefit Worra. Richmond might be out of the playoff hunt themselves (they currently find themselves with a 3-12-8 record and at the bottom of the USL Eastern Conference) but they are in need of a goalkeeper. Many of Worra’s mistakes this season seem to be purely technical, things that can be ameliorated with actual match time. Goalkeepers at his age need to be given time to learn the ropes, make mistakes, and develop. Hamid’s penchant for getting injured gave him some experiences that younger keepers do not get to have. Getting time with the Kickers will help him in the long-term. The question is now whether his career is with D.C.
Subtraction(for now:) Midfielder Julian Buescher
Sent on loan to the Rochester Rhinos for the remainder of the season
Buescher, 24, has made 27 appearances for United over the past two seasons and served as one of coach Ben Olsen’s first choices off of the bench. But he has since his minutes drop this season with just two starts and seven appearances. Although United’s midfield has had its fair share of issues Buescher has not factored into the side aside from a couple of U.S. Open Cup appearances. The move also frees up one of D.C.’s international spots for Zoltan Stieber.
Much like with Worra Buescher will have a chance to earn significant minutes with the Rhinos. Rochester are currently in fifth the USL Eastern Conference (9-4-8, 35 points) and seemed poised to make the playoffs. But midfield depth has been an issue all season for Rochester particularly on the attacking end. Buescher hasn’t had much of a chance to earn minutes against Luciano Acosta this season but he will under coach Bob Lilley. He will also be very familiar with the area having played his collegiate soccer at Syracuse University.
United still seems high on Buescher so odds are he will be back for 2018 in some capacity. In the meantime getting the chance to earn starting minutes for Rochester and play for silverware will hopefully give his career the jump-start that it needs.
Subtraction: Sebastian Le Toux
Contract mutually terminated
Le Toux and United agreed to terminate their deal today after less than a season. The 33 year old midfielder had a respectable run with United scoring twice in eight matches. He was an asset for Olsen during the first half of the season after United were hit with multiple injuries along the attacking end. His goals against Atlanta United and the New England Revolution helped seal some four of D.C.’s 19 points so he has been valuable. However, with the recent changes to the club Le Toux’s minutes were going to become fewer and fewer over the next few matches.
Releasing Le Toux opens up additional minutes for Bruno Miranda to show what he can do this season. If D.C. are to go fully into rebuilding then it makes sense to give more minutes to younger players. Le Toux’s career is likely not over, although his options may be limited as his wife works in Philadelphia and much has been written about his desire to stay close to home. At 33, his best years might be past him but as he has shown this season he can string together quality performances in limited minutes.
All of these moves might seem minor but they are smaller cogs in a much larger operation. Things like international roster spots, salaries, and long-term projections for each player have to be taken into account. But for many who have waited for D.C. United to make any sort of move, even the small moves bring a certain level of excitement to them.