Photo by ISIphotos.com
The Curt Onalfo era is officially underway in D.C., as United's newest coach was formally introduced at a press conference Tuesday.
For a club that is used to success, D.C. United has been humbled in recent seasons, failing to qualify for the postseason the last two campaigns. Tom Soehn's tenure ended at the hands of Onalfo's former club, the Kansas City Wizards on the last day of the 2009 season, and D.C.'s new coach will be able to concentrate on league play this year. Onalfo was clearly excited about his new job opportunity.
"D.C United is dear to my heart. I played for this club, I was an assistant coach here, and I started the youth development program," he said. "It's a big market, an important market, and I've prepared myself now ten years as a professional soccer coach for a place like D.C. United."
On many levels, Onalfo's selection makes sense — his ties to the area are strong, having spent several seasons as both coach and player. His ability to speak Spanish as well as English is another bright spot for a team with close ties to the Hispanic community.
"Being able to communicate with players in either language is crucial," Onalfo said. "It's something that's going to help us have success here with a team that had Latino players that have been instrumental to the club's success over many years."
His Latin ties aside, Onalfo will have to hit the ground running to help this team back to the playoffs. United's last two seasons were jam packed, as the club competed in the CONCACAF Champions League and made deep runs into the U.S. Open Cup.
They face an uphill battle trying to prepare a club that has some young, talented players, but also with several issues to address.
"I feel like there's a strong nucleus of players to have success," Onalfo said. "However, there's a lot of work that needs to be done and we believe that we can still add some depth to this time to continue to help us be successful."
High expectations are prolific in D.C. and anything short of qualifying for the playoffs will be looked at as a disappointment for Onalfo, even in his first season — something he is acutely aware of.
"Priority number one is to get this team back in the playoffs and also to get this team qualified to international tournaments that we're so well known for," he said in during his press conference. Onalfo did just that during his last stint with Kansas City, twice making the playoffs before getting the axe in 2009.
With a head coach now in place, United's attention turns to the draft, and bringing in reinforcements prior to the start of the 2010 season.
What do you think of Onalfo's chances in D.C.? Will he be a success in his first season, or will the team struggle?
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