After finishing rock bottom (I might have mentioned that a few times already…) D.C United’s fortunes could only improve. I am meticulous when it comes to assessing the type of club I apply to and the challenge that I face. There’s no point in me taking over a club whose philosophy and style don’t suit mine. D.C United had a good foundation off the pitch and with the emphasis on youth development with no pressure to get results, I felt I could impose my philosophy and playing style quite easily. Youth recruitment improved, youth facilities were upgraded, training facilities saw an upgrade and the playing staff improved…at least to the point whereby we weren’t sitting bottom of the tables.
After 25 games we were sitting nicely in the playoff positions. At this stage I was very happy with our progress on the pitch. However, we didn’t start the season well and I immediately though I’d made a huge mistake. We beat Orlando City 2-0 on the opening day of the season but we slumped to eight defeats in the first 13 games. Five of those defeats we by one goal and so, my frustration was mounting as I have no room for manoeuvre in the transfer market because of the salary cap. Portland Timbers and New York City were two clubs I identified as the big boys and the teams I’d have to beat if I was to mount a serious MLS title challenge. However, New York City won the MLS Supporters’ Shield with plenty of games to spare, whereas my D.C United side needed a win on the final day of the season to secure a playoff spot. Our opponents? New York City.
We lost 3-2 in a game that saw us go 1-0 up in the first half thanks to Mullins. Soon after the break Steiber extended our lead. I was confident that we would see the game out but New York City bounced back with goals from Harrison and Blessing bringing them level after 78 minutes. Midfield maestro Canouse in a moment of madness gets himself a second yellow card and subsequently a red one soon after. Morris completed the New York City comeback and ensuring we finish the game downbeat and disheartened. Our playoff hopes rested in other results and not in our hands and that was a bitter pill to swallow.
Luckily we got into the playoffs as one of the MLS wild card teams Chicago Fire.
A relatively comfortable win in the end to bring us to the semi-final of the MLS Eastern Conference. Our opposition was New York City but I felt like we could turn them over despite our last result ending with a 3-2 defeat. We were 2-0 up at one point and despite not having a fantastic record in MLS this season, we were very very competitive. We finished 5th in the Eastern Conference and 7th in the MLS Supporters’ Shield. The less said about the cup competition the better…
The semi-final was as far as we got that season. We lost 2-0 at home and could only muster a 2-2 draw in the away leg. Overall I can’t complain with the progress we made as a club, as players and as a coaching team. If we compare where the club finished last season and where they finished after my first season in charge, everyone involved with the club can be happy. New York City ended up winning the MLS that season and there’s no shame in losing to the eventual winners.
Sadly it was my first and last season with D.C United. Our pre-season had been completed and I had made all of the signings necessary to strengthen the squad and push for trophies BUT I had royally screwed myself over with the salary cap as I had designated players on small wages taking up full salary cap allocation and I had too many international players and it was just a complete farce from my end. So I resigned from the club with immediate affect. Strange really as I had rejected a job offer from Derby County football club during the pre-season so I could win trophies with D.C United and yet, in a fit of rage I resigned because of the salary cap.