A look at DC United

by Jonathan Sager

Sunderland fan in the US profiles new club partners.

Many of you have probably heard of Major League Soccer and D.C. United, so you will be familiar to the logo of the red, white and black bald eagle of the Washington D.C. club. 

But what you may not know that when the MLS began, no one dominated the league like D.C. United did. 

In fact, there's a lot to be said for the way the club was ran when it began, starting with the coach Bruce Arena - who went on to coach the US Men's National Team to an all-time best ranking of fourth in the world in 2006. 

D.C. United won three of the first four MLS Cups, winning the Eastern Conference Regular season in 1997, 1998 and 1999, the Eastern Conference playoffs in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, the U.S Open Cup in 1996, the Supporter's Shield in 1997 and 1999, the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1998 and the Copa Interamericana in 1998.

Cheered on by supporters sections known as the Barra Brava and the Screaming Eagles, it might as well be considered the New York Yankees of the MLS because it is what success is based on in American professional soccer.

Those four years were magical and I can remember them very well, growing up in Virginia, I remember the team coming into the league, and I remember buying Soccer America to try to get more information on the team's foray into South America, as well as what was going on in the rest of MLS.  But also I remember watching the team play on regional television. 

Many of you know your heroes of Sunderland, you can name them, you can name a specific team and you can build your team. That D.C. United team, that was a killer team, so here's some names for you Mackems to know.

Marco Etcheverry (El Diablo) 1996-2003

The man ran the midfield like the devil and one of the greatest Bolivian players to ever play the game. He's in the list of D.C. United's All Time Best XI and rightfully so, but no one could doubt the passion this man brought to the game, you could see it in his eyes. He set up plays, he scored goals, he was the MLS MVP in 1998 - he was quite simply the man. Other than Alexi Lalas, he was my favourite MLS player of all time, and I regret never getting to see him play in person. 

Eddie Pope 1996-2002

An American defender who was one of the steadiest defenders you could ever ask for. He wasn't flashy and he would never wow you with goals, but damn could he defend. He was there at the backlines and he did everything you asked for. Eddie was the backbone of a United line that could defend and he paired up incredibly well with the rest of the USMNT as well, becoming a key component of Bruce Arena's 2006 high ranking team. He also scored the winning goal of the first MLS Cup.

Jeff Agoos (Goose)1996-2000

Jeff Agoos was an American defender who paired with Eddie Pope at both club and international level.  He was probably one of the best American defenders to ever play in the MLS and he was named to the MLS All-Time Best XI. He also spent time on loan with West Bromwich Albion in 2000. 

John Harkes 1996-1998

A player you may recognise from his time with Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, West Ham United and Nottingham Forest, John Harkes was the first American to play in the Premier League. He was part of a Wednesday side that upset Man U in the 1991 League Cup, and he was subsequently named in the American Soccer Hall of Fame.

Jaime Moreno 1996-2002 and 2004-2010

James Moreno was the first MLS player to reach 100 goals and 100 assists, and when he retired in 2010 he was the MLS all-time leading goal scorer with a tally of 133. As one of the most impressive goal scorers the league would ever see, he was threat every time he got the ball, teaming up with El Diablo to score goal after goal after goal.  He also spent some time in England with Middlesbrough, although he wasn't as successful. He did however leave his mark on the MLS, and he will always be one of the greatest players to ever play for DC.

Raul Diaz Arce 1996-1997 and 2000-2001

In his first season with DC United the El Salvadorian international would score and score and also be the first player in MLS history to score a hat-trick in the playoffs. Unfortunately he would end up being traded away from DC United because of salary cap issues, but he was part of a group that tortured defenders with Moreno, Etcheverry and Harkes.

Tony Sanneh 1996-1998

Tony was the super-sub off the bench and he could do just about anything. He could score goals, he could play anywhere you wanted and do anything you wanted him to do.  Over 86 games with United he scored 20 goals - he wasn't flashy but he was a hard worker and he was one of the key components who got the job done, scoring the first goal in the 96 MLS for DC United after they had gone down 2-0.

Kris Kelderman 1996-1997

I was working at a movie theatre during the summer of 1997, when D.C. United sent a player to an event - Kelderman was the player. He was a nice guy, he signed loads of autographs and didn't mind me hanging about pestering him with questions about soccer. 

After the success of the 1998 Copa Interamericana - the playoff series between the best teams in CONCACAF and CONMEBOL - that DC United won and the 1999 MLS Cup victory, it seemed that the rest of the MLS started to catch up with United and a phase of rebuilding began.

Looking back on those years, it's hard to believe that it's been 14 years since I watched those MLS Cups with pride. I remember going out to kick the ball after DC won, and It would have been hard to imagine I'd be sitting here typing this now thinking about it. 

It would take until 2004 for them to win their fourth and last MLS Cup, with them taking on one of the biggest prodigies in American soccer history, Freddy Adu. He signed with DC United at the age of 14 and drew thousands of spectators to matches. He drew comparisons to Pele and he was to be the future of DC United and American soccer, but that year DC United were led by one of my favourites, Ben Olsen.

Ben Olsen 1998-2009

An American midfielder who won two MLS cup titles, two MLS Supporters' Shields and one US Open Cup.  He also played for the USMNT. Currently he is the coach of DC United and during 2000-2001 he played for Nottingham Forest on loan, scoring two goals in 18 appearances. I still remember him flinging crosses into the box, he was a spirited player who had the biggest heart and never gave up. 

Since 2004 DC has struggled to get back to the top of the mountain, they've had their roster problems with injuries and coaching issues. But in 2010 they re-did the roster and took Ben Olsen on as the permanent man to coach the team. In 2012 they did well to finish 3rd in the league and reach the Semi-final of the playoffs and 2013 they won the US Open Cup. With the addition of the Sunderland backing they’re aiming to push forward to the top. 

Those are some of my heroes from those years at DC United and I'm sure there's many more out there, but this is a short primer for those of you who don't know much about United. 

Remember We Are United and Ha'way The Lads!