DC United's Ben Olsen finding success with "All-American" lineup: Is it an aberration or trend?
In a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on July 5, D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen fielded a starting XI that was exclusively American.
In that game, Olsen was left with 23 available players after the departure of Cristian Fernandez, a Spaniard who started 15 games at left back before leaving the team earlier this month, and an injury to MVP contender Fabian Espindola, an Argentinian. Of the 23 on D.C.'s roster that day, only Nana Attakora, Lewis Neal, and Kyle Porter were not Americans.
Following the Toronto game, Olsen trotted out an “All-American” lineup in the next two contests. The result? A three-game winning streak.
That game against TFC was the first time since October 2008 that an MLS team had put out a starting lineup of only Americans. As discussed on Monday’s ExtraTime Radio, the five-and-a-half-year gap is in large part due to expansion – as the league has grown, so has the need to acquire more overseas talent to fill out rosters.
But the heavy use of American players has been a consistent trend for D.C. even as the rest of the league skews more toward imports. United have given at least 59 percent of their minutes to Americans in each of the last four seasons, including this season in which 83 percent of available minutes have gone to Americans.
The results have been mixed: United are second in the East this year, but set an ignominious record for fewest victories in a season last year (3). They also missed the playoffs in 2011, but made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Championship in 2012.
On the other side of the "foreign or domestic?" spectrum are the New York Red Bulls, who have not given more than 40 percent of available minutes to Americans in any of the last four seasons. It hasn't seemed to hinder their performance, however, as New York have made the playoffs each year – including 2013 when they took home the Supporters' Shield.
Percentage of Minutes Played by Americans DC-New York
Check out the chart below, which compare every American MLS team over the past four seasons and the amount of minutes they give to Americans. You will notice that playing Americans does not necessarily lead to success on the field, but it also doesn't mean failure:
Percentage of Minutes Played by Americans 2011-2014
What do you think? Can D.C. keep the momentum going using only Americans? Let us know in the comments below.