WASHINGTON -- It’s early going still, but D.C. United’s off-season has so far been defined by what’s happened in council chambers at the Wilson Building, not what’s happened in the front office at RFK Stadium.
It was at that very government complex that the D.C. City Council made history on Wednesday, approving legislation that paved the way for United to begin construction of a new home, a soccer-specific jewel at Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C..
A few miles up the Anacostia River, things have been a bit quieter at RFK. United passed in both stages of the Re-Entry Draft and were quiet through the Waiver Draft, as well. Their pick in the Dispersal Draft — former Chivas USA midfielder Tommy McNamara — was gone before he arrived, selected by NYCFC in the Expansion Draft.
And though United are sure to add more pieces as the off-season progresses, their inactivity is far from unintentional. After a 2014 campaign that saw them complete a remarkable turnaround and finish atop the Eastern Conference, United general manager Dave Kasper and head coach Ben Olsen are feeling confident.
On Wednesday, just moments after the stadium vote, Kasper shared his thoughts on United’s offseason strategy.
“We feel great about this core,” Kasper told the media in attendance. "We’re keeping it together. We want to build off what we’ve accomplished and put together in the last four or five years -- we’ve built through the draft, we’ve built through Homegrowns, [we’ve found] players sometimes who were having some off-years in the Re-entry Draft, and we want to keep that core together and add some more depth.”
United haven’t been completely quiet. Houston Dynamo midfielder Andrew Driver was acquired earlier this month in exchange for backup ‘keeper Joe Willis and Ghanaian international Samuel Inkoom. Willis spent four years at United and at various points in time was the club’s starter, but the goalkeeper fell to No. 3 on the depth chart in 2014, replaced by Andrew Dykstra. Inkoom proved valuable in CONCACAF Champions League play but never quite fit into Olsen’s plans during league matches.
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Willis is a dual national and holds a German passport, something that had him looking overseas for opportunities in recent weeks, a source familiar with the situation told MLSsoccer.com. After assessing his options, Willis finalized his deal with the Dynamo earlier this week.
"Joe did not want to come back to the club,” said Kasper. “We had several negotiations with him. A year ago we sat him down and he said 'I want to be a starter, I don’t see that happening here anytime soon.' It’s time to let a player like that go. We didn’t see a future for him in the short term and we wish him well.
"He’s a great guy and will do very well, but it also quite frankly to us was a way to move a foreign player [Inkoom] off of our roster moving into the Expansion Draft and protect a big piece. We were able to protect a very important player -- who I won’t name -- with that move and we got a guy in Andrew Driver that we like a lot as a very interesting player.”
United remain in the market for depth at multiple positions. Aside from Willis and Inkoom, there have been other departures: options on Nana Attakora, Jeff Parke and Conor Shanosky were declined, leaving United a bit thin in the back. Lewis Neal — United’s primary depth at center mid — left for Orlando City SC after being selected in the Expansion Draft. Though nearly every one of United’s starters looks sure to return in 2015, the club will likely look to replace much of that depth that proved key in their 2014 campaign.