Today D.C. United announced the firing of head coach Curt Onalfo. This was Onalfo’s first year managing the team but he had spent his last year as a player with the MLS club. It took five matches before D.C. United won its first league match and the team had been on a six-game winless streak before Onalfo’s axing.
One has to wonder if Onalfo won’t be the only D.C.-based soccer coach sacked this week. The Washington Freedom’s Jim Gabarra must be feeling the pressure. The last time his team won a match was May 30. It’s been 10 games without a win since then, which ties the WPS record for the longest winless streak set by FC Gold Pride last season.
Gabarra has been tenured with the team for nearly a decade, even when there was a team to be tenured to. No doubt such deep family ties will be hard to sever. But the Freedom won’t be expected to win tonight’s match against the Philadelphia Independence. Will 11 games without a win be enough to make the Freedom organization pull the trigger?
The Freedom started off the year with an inconsistent record, but so did everyone else. They were frequent challengers with the Philadelphia Independence and Sky Blue FC for the #2 spot in the league. Now they’re in last place, tied on points with the rejuvenated Atlanta Beat.
When things go this haywire, it’s unfair to assign blame to one specific err. But a team is nothing with a defense, which doesn’t say a whole lot for the Freedom. The team has statistically the worst defense in the league, as the team leaks an average of 1.71 goals per game. The next team on the list (Sky Blue FC) is a ways away with 1.38 goals conceded per game.
Matters have only deteriorated with the season-ending injury that goalkeeper Erin McLeod suffered two weeks ago. The Freedom will now have to depend on the services of rookie Ashlyn Harris and third-choice Meagan McCray.
It was announced today that the Freedom had traded for Anita Asante from the Chicago Red Stars. Asante was half of perhaps the best centerback pairing of the league last year when she lined up alongside Christie Rampone for Sky Blue FC. A knee injury sidelined her for much of the start of the 2010 season and she was acquired by Chicago. She wasn’t going to see much more playing time with the Red Stars, however, as she’s only tallied 282 minutes for the team. Only Nikki Washington and Jessica McDonald have earned fewer minutes out of the senior players.
The Freedom organization will hope that Asante can help shore up that backline, which has seemingly been a revolving door of defenders. It seems as if every member of the team has appeared back there at least once this season. Players (i.e. Nikki Marshall, Sonia Bompastor and Brittany Bock) are being asked to perform in positions that may not necessarily be their preferred.
Perhaps it’s not merely a lack of personnel, but a lack of team chemistry. Cat Whitehill was benched for last week’s game against Boston. Becky Sauerbrunn donned the captain’s armband, over typical selections Whitehill and Abby Wambach.
Ultimately, the question is how patient will this Freedom organization be. The team were totally outplayed last week against Boston. It’s reasonable not to expect a change this week, particularly when the team has a midweek game. But after tonight’s match against a potent Philadelphia team, the Freedom will have just six more games to play in the regular season.
The longer they wait, the more ground they’ll have to cover in the standings. The longer they wait, the less time a new coach will have to impart his or her philosophy to the team.
Perhaps it should be mentioned that longtime DC United player and team ambassador Ben Olsen was appointed manager of the team in Onalfo’s exit. There