Is MLS liable for a player’s foul temper and concussion treatment?

A lawsuit filed by former D.C. United goalkeeper Charlie Horton raises a few interesting questions … and some that seem a little less interesting. (Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer.)

Like many legal documents, this suit has a few aspects that will make anyone with the slightest knowledge of the sport laugh out loud. I’ll never understand why lawyers think they can get away with such nonsense, but they’re not alone in the “post-fact” landscape. Horton’s four caps with the U23s (sharing time with Cody Cropper, Ethan Horvath and Zack Steffen) are distorted into “a starting goalkeeper for the national team.” That may be technically true. The assertion that Horton played in Olympic qualifying games is not. He was on the roster, but Steffen and Horvath played all five games (four wins, one very costly loss).

The allegation is as follows: After United’s players watched video of their recent match against Dallas, Espindola confronted Horton about a practice-field incident “weeks prior.” Horton said he wasn’t interested in talking about it, but then …

(Again, this is the plaintiff’s side of the case — we’ll see how the various defendants dispute what happened.) Espindola is the sole defendant in the first three counts of the complaint: assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The next day, coach Ben Olsen met with Horton. Here’s how the plaintiffs sum it up:

The notion that a coach, a team and a league may be negligent (Count IV of the complaint is “negligent supervision,” directed at Olsen and United) for hiring a player with “fire in his belly” won’t win Horton and his legal team many sympathizers in the soccer community. And skeptics will question how Horton was able to play for the Richmond Kickers (8 games, 16 saves, 0.88 GAA — good enough to get called back up to United for part of the summer) and return to preseason camp with United, only to announce his retirement after Olsen told him he wouldn’t make the team in 2017.

But here are the interesting aspects:

1. Is MLS, under the single-entity structure, liable for all the actions of all its teams? 

Count V (Negligent Hiring and Retention) is directed at MLS, with this paragraph included:

2. Did D.C. United follow proper concussion procedures?

Curiously, no one on United’s training staff — which surely would’ve been responsible for any decision on whether Horton trained that day — is listed as a defendant. It’s Espindola, Olsen, United and MLS.

The complaint goes on to say Horton’s condition worsened overnight. He then reported the problem to trainer Brian Goodstein, who referred to an unnamed doctor and put him in the Concussion Protocol.

Count VI of the complaint is “Respondeat Superior/Vicarious Liability,” which would surely require a lawyer to untangle.

The complaint doesn’t specify an amount of damages sought. See the full version at Courthouse News.

The law firm is Ashcraft & Gerel, which advertises frequently on D.C.-area television.

For sake of comparison: When Bryan Namoff sought $12 million for his career-ending concussion, he sued Goodstein, then-coach Tom Soehn, D.C. United, then-team physician Christopher Annunziata and Commonwealth Orthopedics. He also had a malpractice suit against United, Goodstein and Commonwealth, plus a separate malpractice suit against Annunziata. In skimming through the docket reports, it seems these cases dragged on forever, with a couple dozen doctors and a few outliers (Langley School? Arlington Soccer Association) also served with subpoenas.

(Disclaimer: I’ve been treated at Commonwealth, as have a couple of relatives. My hand is much better now, thanks.)

As Steven Goff reported, that case did not end well for Namoff.

D.C. Superior Court documents show the sides did not settle. The case, which sought $20 million in total damages, was dismissed.

A judge ruled workers’ compensation laws barred Namoff’s claim against United, Soehn and Goodstein.

Namoff’s claim against Annunziata and Commonwealth Orthopaedics was withdrawn after the defense provided a detailed list of evidence that Namoff was not as sick as he stated.

In an interview Tuesday, attorneys for Annunziata and the medical group said no payment was ever offered or made.

Why wasn’t MLS sued as well? Perhaps it’s simply the different nature of the injury. Horton claims Espindola inflicted his injury, and MLS is negligent for employing him. Namoff wasn’t claiming an assault; he was claiming negligent medical care.

So in addition to the ongoing concern about concussions in sports, the Horton case could be one to watch for those interested in understanding the league’s complex single-entity structure.

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D.C. United has lost the plot

This is the first year I’ve been a Northern Virginia resident and attended no D.C. United games. It wasn’t anything personal — there’s no reason for me to be in the pressbox any more, and the Spirit and youth soccer took up so much of my time that I had little left over. But I would’ve gone to the season finale if not for a conflict.

I did attend an open practice for area youth coaches, and I was impressed with Ben Olsen. He had a good sense of humor about his situation, and he gave engaging explanations of what they were trying to do in practice. (I don’t think he recognized the guy who wrote a USA TODAY feature about him and interviewed him for an MLS book, but that’s OK. I’ve been keeping a low profile.)

The interesting part about seguing from “sportswriter in the pressbox each week” to “local youth soccer dad and prospective ticket-buyer” is that I see the sales operations. A lot. They come out to our coaches’ meetings with special offers. They call me and ask how I’m doing and if I want to come back out to a game sometime. (I turn around and ask if they’ve read my book, but I always have good conversations with them.)

D.C. United has a lot going for it. The youth programs are on solid ground, and they’re actually producing pro players. They’re well-established in the community, so much so that they may actually be able to pull off this massive land-swap thing to get a real stadium built in Washington, where the regional politics are about as easy to navigate as the asteroid field in The Empire Strikes Back. They have a terrific sponsor in Volkswagen.

The only problem is the team. It’s not very good.

And though it’d be nice to get Chris Pontius to stay healthy for a while, this isn’t a mere stretch of bad luck. It’s a solid decade of really bad personnel moves.

The team has responded with a lot of front office changes. Today, they made more.

So they finally got rid of the people in charge of the roster? Nope. Doug Hicks, one of the most respected communications and marketing people in the business. Aprile Pritchet, a D.C. United office mainstay who worked on community relations. And Sarah Lerner in communications.

Let’s make one thing clear. The fan base does seem alienated. But they weren’t alienated by Hicks, Pritchet and Lerner. They were alienated by Franco Niell, Gonzalo Martinez, Gonzalo Peralta, Jose Carvallo, Ange N’Silu, Danny Allsopp, Cristian Castillo and scores of others players who have floated through RFK Stadium in the past six years. (In some cases, the players were OK but were misfits — Hamdi Salihi isn’t bad at all, and Steve Guppy was perversely wasted on the wing banging crosses into tiny “target” forwards.)

D.C. United’s leading scorer this season? Three players tied with three goals each. Little wonder the club finished at 3-24-7.

Ben Olsen has a legitimate case to stay on as coach. He somehow got this gaggle of secondhand parts to win the U.S. Open Cup.

But the club is firing people who built the D.C. United brand while keeping those who have failed to build a competent team? That’s supposed to bring back fans to make the stands bounce for the remaining years at RFK?

How?

D.C. United-Columbus Crew: Random views from Section 302

After Lewis Neal’s goal made it 3-2.

My youth club was one of several in the stadium as D.C. United fought for and eventually clinched a playoff spot against the Columbus Crew.

The stadium’s falling apart. The quality of play was wretched through much of the game. Columbus played like a bunch of punks. (To some extent, so did United.) The referee was a shambles.

And still it was a great night. Good food. Good company. And a game that was exciting, if occasionally sloppy.

A few things to mention:

– D.C. United does so many things right as a club. With a baffling construction project blocking a major exit from Lot 8, the main tailgating lot, the club put a detailed detour on its site and handed out cards with the same map and directions. Getting out was a breeze. Great work, guys.

– Bottomless popcorn? Big hit with the kids. And some adults.

– No overhead TVs in our section, and no view of the video screen. Some kids moved to another clump of kids from our club so they could watch the big screen. That’s a bit much, but still, I would’ve liked to have seen some replays. I also couldn’t understand the PA, and they put very little info on the scoreboard. I thought the first D.C. United goal was scored by Pidge Eon. Turned out it was Nick DeLeon. Very different.

– Columbus’s first goal — in the seventh minute — was a direct result of a D.C. United defender lagging behind the others and leaving a couple of Crew players onside. Columbus’s second goal — two minutes after Pidge Eon’s equalizer — was a direct result of a D.C. United defender lagging behind the others and leaving a couple of Crew players onside.

– Edvin Jurisevic will not give a penalty kick for any foul committed without firearms.

– Bathroom in prime area closed for repairs? Why, yes, that’s terrific timing! I mean, RFK has all those winter events coming up, and they don’t want the stadium to be in bad shape.

– The game was chippy and sloppy, particularly in the first half. I began to wonder if we should’ve left the kids at home, lest they pick up any bad habits. Picked up a bit in the second half, when United pinned Columbus in its own half much of the time, even though a tie was fine for United. Then the Crew made things interesting when they threw everyone forward for the goal they needed to stay alive in the playoff race.

– Doug the Food Dude’s salmon wrap wasn’t quite as good as I remembered, but it was still a great value for hungry fans in Lot 8.

– Screaming Eagles were in fine voice. Should I complain that they blocked the tunnel from Lot 8 when I was trying to meet the coach who had my tickets? No? I’ll think about it. Maybe not something to bring up when the lower bowl was full and loud. The “quiet” side was into it, too.

I might need to figure out a way to get to the playoff game. Maybe take the same families with us.

Maybe I’ll get back to the pressbox at some point, and I can’t say I have no complaints with the view from Section 302. But I’m looking forward to going there again.

Player ratings: D.C. United-Columbus

D.C. United 0, Columbus 1
Sept. 4, 2010

Summary: Undermanned United started brightly, gave up a goal when young keeper Bill Hamid muffed a clearance and promptly ran out of ideas. Final shots on goal: Columbus 2, United 0.

Conditions: For a change, quite pleasant. And still, only 12,075 showed up.

D.C. United: Decimated by injuries and national team call-ups, United dressed only 16 players. Dejan Jakovic (Canada) and Marc Burch (injury) both played Wednesday but were unavailable here, Jordan Graye started ahead of Devon McTavish, and interim coach Ben Olsen moved Clyde Simms from midfield to the back line. Former Crew man Jed Zayner filled one of the defensive spots despite being listed as “out” on the injury report. That left Julius James as the sole returnee at the back from Wednesday night’s game. The midfield was more stable, with Kurt Morsink taking Simms’ spot. The EPL should look at this game before deciding to stick with this new “25-man” rule.

4 Bill Hamid (GK): Terrific save on Gaven, but the one blunder was costly.

5 Jordan Graye (RB): Solid job on Gaven, who was much more threatening Wednesday night. Lapse in 85th gave Crew good opportunity.
6 Clyde Simms (CB): Held his ground very well in unfamiliar role.
5 Julius James (CB): A couple of dodgy moments in possession but solid defensively.
6 Jed Zayner (LB): Not bad at all.

5 Andy Najar (RM): A few more of the dazzling moments United fans have come to expect, but Francis stopped him cold a few times as well.
5 Kurt Morsink (CM): Seems to have cut down on the needless fouls. Subbed out in 87th with trainers taking a look.
6 Stephen King (CM): Solid work at both ends.
6 Santino Quaranta (LM): Several good runs but often frustrated in the end.

4 Danny Allsopp (F): Couldn’t quite get in the flow; subbed out for Moreno in 61st.
5 Pablo Hernandez (F): A menace once again but unable to test Hesmer.

Subs
6 Jaime Moreno (F): Worked hard, ran more than we’ve seen in recent months.
NR Devon McTavish (CB): Replaced Morsink, though he switched positions with Simms.

Columbus: William Hesmer returned to the net. Frankie Hejduk was ruled out due to injury, Adam Moffat didn’t make the 18, and toughman Danny O’Rourke was shuffled to the back line. Those moves opened space in the midfield for Dilly Duka and Kevin Burns, both effective as subs Wednesday night.

6 William Hesmer (GK): Not really pressed into action. Alert on the occasional through ball.

5 Danny O’Rourke (RB): Struggled at times to handle Quaranta. Didn’t instigate any incidents.
6 Andy Iro (CB): Effective at disrupting final ball in United possessions.
6 Chad Marshall (CB): See Andy Iro.
5 Gino Padula (LB): Injured early; subbed out in 30th.

5 Dilly Duka (RM): Good moments here and there. Subbed out for Garey in 77th.
5 Brian Carroll (CM): Not much productivity in the center, but nothing conceded.
5 Kevin Burns (CM): See Brian Carroll.
6 Eddie Gaven (LM): Not as effective as he was Wednesday, though he forced a good save from Hamid (the only save of the game at either end) on a surging run early in the second half.

7 Guillermo Barros Schelotto (F): Picked his spots very well, creating opportunities with deft touches and pouncing on Hamid error for the opening goal.
6 Steven Lenhart (F): Lost his man on a corner kick for best chance of the night; otherwise not involved that much until blazing shot over bar in 79th.

Subs
7 Shaun Francis (LB): Not the MLS Insider blogger. More effective than Padula in dealing with Najar, often getting the better of the United phenom 1-on-1.
NR Jason Garey (RM): Subbed for Duka in 77th.
NR Andres Mendoza: Time-wasting sub in stoppage time. Getting called offside when you’re supposed to be killing the clock probably won’t please Robert Warzycha.

Ratings, summary: D.C. United-Columbus Open Cup semi

D.C. United 1, Columbus 2
U.S. Open Cup semifinal
Sept. 1, 2010

The Crew played their usual starters aside from Andy Gruenebaum in goal in place of William Hesmer. Gruenebaum had two early blunders — an adventure outside his area that left a gaping goal, then a poor clearance in his box that led to a United PK. Pablo Hernandez did the honors for a 1-0 lead.

The controversy came in the 59th minute. From several viewings of the replay in an angry United locker room, here’s what happened:

– Crew toughman Danny O’Rourke ran over Hernandez.

– Hernandez’s leg comes up, possibly making contact with O’Rourke. Whether that was intentional or incidental is a judgment call. I’d lean incidental.

– O’Rourke scuttles back over and taunts Hernandez, who’s still down. He pushes a hand down toward the United forward.

– Hernandez raises an arm as if to shoo O’Rourke away.

Referee Chris Penso, unknown to most of us in the pressbox, consulted with the sideline officials (AR and 4th official both in position to see) before producing yellow for O’Rourke, red for Hernandez.

United continued to create chances, but the Crew eventually threw the kitchen sink forward. Defender Andy Iro equalized in traffic in the 89th (they’re crediting it for now as an own goal to Marc Burch, but that’s cruel). United nearly took the lead right back with a great feed to Andy Najar in the center, but the phenom put his shot just wide.

Seven minutes into extra time, Carey Talley was beaten in the box and brought down Steven Lenhart at the corner of the 6-yard box. If Penso had held on to his whistle for two seconds, the Crew would’ve been ahead 2-1 right away, drilling the ball into the net. As it happened, Guillermo Barros Schelotto converted the PK, anyway.

Columbus moves on, though the red card and some extraneous Crew gamesmanship may leave a mildly bitter taste. United fans can only hope their season of woe is salvaged by some miraculous news on the stadium front.

Attendance: 3,411

COLUMBUS

Matchup of straight 4-4-2s, no playmakers. After United dropped to 10 men, the Crew countered with more offense, inserting Jason Garey up front and dropping Guillermo Barros Schelotto into midfield with Dilly Duka alongside him in a sort of 3-3-2-2 or 3-4-1-2. Edgar Renteria (Venezuela national team) wasn’t available.

5 Andy Gruenebaum, GK – Big blunder early, coming out to shepherd ball to end line and not getting it. Bailed out when defense blocked cross toward wide-open net. Second blunder led to PK, as Iro fouled Hernandez after poor clearance and gaping goal. Big saves on Najar.

5 Frankie Hejduk, RB – Maybe not as active as we expect from the hyperactive one, but solid.
7 Chad Marshall, CB – Header across face of goal from Schelotto free kick. Dominant in air.
6 Andy Iro, CB – Gave away PK with foul on Hernandez, but he was in a difficult spot. Played as de facto forward in desperation time and held off defenders to score goal.
6 Gino Padula, LB – Effective. Subbed out in second half.

5 Adam Moffat, RM – Quiet. Subbed out in 77th.
4 Danny O’Rourke, CM – Could’ve been sent off in 59th, either along with or instead of Hernandez. Subbed out soon afterward.
5 Brian Carroll, CM – Crew didn’t do much centrally.
8 Eddie Gaven, LM – Endless supply of crosses as he had his way on the flank.

6 Guillermo Barros Schelotto, F – Forced to play defense on counter after free kick, tripped Quaranta. Converted PK. Set pieces not his usual standard.
5 Steven Lenhart, F – Squandered a couple of chances. Too many clumsy collisions with Hamid. Won PK.

Subs:
6 Dilly Duka, RM – Lively and creative sub.
5 Jason Garey, F – Some impact off bench.
5 Kevin Burns, M – Subbed for Moffat and appeared a couple of times in attack.

D.C. UNITED

Started in 4-4-2 with empty bucket, relying on wings for creativity. After losing Pablo Hernandez, inserted Jordan Graye at back, removing Danny Allsopp and leaving Andy Najar as a front-runner. Branko Boskovic (Montenegro national team) wasn’t available.

6 Bill Hamid, GK – Huge stop 1-on-1 with Gaven was the best of several saves. Not at fault on goals.

5 Devon McTavish, RB – Struggled with Gaven in first half; better in second.
6 Dejan Jakovic, CB – Solid at back. Moved to forward after United fell behind in extra time and missed wide-open net.
5 Julius James, CB – Solid at back.
4 Marc Burch, LB – Unlucky to deflect Iro shot into his net. Long balls a bit off.

8 Andy Najar, RM – Powerful shots. Very effective on counterattacks after United was reduced to 10, but touch started to desert him late, especially on golden chance in 89th. Set up terrific chance for Jakovic in extra time.
6 Stephen King, CM – Helped United limit Crew in center.
6 Clyde Simms, CM – See King.
7 Santino Quaranta, LM – Helped Najar on the counter and was productive throughout.

6 Pablo Hernandez, F – Actively buzzed around Crew box to cause problems, winning and converting PK. Red card obviously costly.
5 Danny Allsopp, F – Dangerous in spots.

Subs:
5 Jordan Graye, D – Speed helped at back.
3 Carey Talley, D – At fault on the goal in extra time.
4 Jaime Moreno, F – Tried a little too hard to draw a PK in the second extra session.

There is no “try” — Adu or not Adu

Anyone made that pun yet? I think we’re all racing now to make the last possible pun on Freddy Adu’s name.

The young American’s status is up in the air again after a trial with Switzerland’s FC Sion didn’t pan out. (Aside to headline writers: “Not signing” and “failed to impress” or not the same thing.)

Now we have a report that Adu is “close to signing” with the Los Angeles Galaxy. My background doesn’t give me much faith in anonymous reports — which works out well, because no one ever tells me anything — but World Soccer Reader has shown itself to be more sincere and reliable in its reporting than most. And it’s interesting that the mainstreamers who could easily throw cold water on such reports have not done so.

“Close to signing,” of course, is a nebulous term, and many things can derail a deal that seems close to happening. This isn’t the NBA, where teams are basically bidding against each other for free agents, and players are weighing only a couple of factors. This is international soccer and MLS, where the multiple parties must agree on transfer terms, contract terms, compensation for the team holding allocation rights, salary cap impact, etc., etc.

So while we wait to see if this deal comes to fruition, we can ask: Should Freddy Adu come back to MLS?

I say no. Here’s why:

Adu is the classic example of how the old media “build up, tear down” celebrity cycle has been accelerated and magnified in the Internet Age. Some people thought he was never that good. Some people legitimately bought the “new Pele” line, though no one in a position of authority was actually calling him that. Some people thought he was several years older than he said.

Let’s destroy all three of those arguments, in reverse order:

Continue reading There is no “try” — Adu or not Adu

MLS in the Silverdome — raise the roof, y’all!

Josh Hakala has the story of an innovative idea to remove all the disadvantages of the Silverdome as an MLS venue in one swoop. It’s simple but brilliant: Put a roof at the top of the lower (edit: not upper, which makes no sense) deck, creating an enclosed space below — two of them, actually — for concerts, basketball, hockey, maybe even indoor soccer. Then remove the roof on top of the upper deck, and voila — it’s a 30K-ish soccer stadium.

Roof, gone. Capacity decreased to something reasonable. Without knowing the particulars, I’d have to think the width of the field wouldn’t be an issue, either, unless the Silverdome’s current upper deck juts out really far.

Sounds somewhat expensive, of course, so we’ll have to see if the capital is actually there. But at least they’re not trying to find a site from scratch like New England or D.C. United.

Could this sort of outside-the-box thinking help United?

Forget the political problems for a moment and consider this possibility: The Redskins return to the site now occupied by dilapidated RFK Stadium. No NFL team would move into a smallish, dated, crumbling facility, whatever its charms. So RFK would need to come down — preferably demolished rather than simply collapsing on its own — and a new stadium is needed.

Suppose that stadium had the following:

– A field that slides out, as in the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium and Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. You could actually roll a grass field on top of an artificial field if desired. You could have separate fields for soccer and football.

– A retractable roof between decks. Making a soccer stadium out of the upper deck, as in the Silverdome plan, might be tricky — I can’t imagine retractable roofing is designed to bear that much weight. But you could close the roof all the way for “indoor” events, or you could close it partway to make a nice soccer stadium out of the lower deck.

All we need to make it happen is a couple hundred million dollars and the agreement of several political bodies. At least the former would be less of a problem with the Redskins’ involvement.

Panic at RFK: Olsen replaces Onalfo with D.C. United

Ben Olsen, thrown into the fire

Ben Olsen burst onto the MLS scene soon after the league launched, bringing a potent mix of skill and effort to a powerful D.C. United team. As injuries robbed him of some of his speed and likely ruined his chances of remaining in Europe, where he had impressed on loan with Nottingham Forest, he stuck with United and was a midfield general whenever healthy. He made it to the World Cup in 2006 with his experience and willingness to do anything for his team.

Along the way, he became one of the most popular athletes in Washington. Not on D.C. United — in D.C. He was always quotable and charitable. The fact that Nick Rimando and Jacqui Little asked him to officiate at their wedding should tell you what his teammates thought of him, and the fans who came up with elaborate displays for him felt the same way. (Fine, Red Bulls fans, go ahead and wretch, but I’m just telling you the reality here. Besides, if you’ve made peace with Richie Williams, surely you can forgive another United midfield irritant.)

Whether Olsen, only a few months removed from his playing days, is ready to take over as head coach of a dysfunctional D.C. United team is anyone’s guess. He will have one advantage over Curt Onalfo — everyone will be rooting for him.

But at D.C. United, the problems surely go a bit deeper than the head coach. Let’s look at a couple of years of incoming players (skipping minor developmental player moves), since 2007, when United won the Supporters Shield:

Continue reading Panic at RFK: Olsen replaces Onalfo with D.C. United

MLS: Still not sturdy enough to wish for another team’s demise

I often like to visit the visiting fans’ section at RFK Stadium. For one thing, it gets me out of the press sauna and out in the stands where the breezes offer some relief.

We're not superior -- RFK management just put us in the upper deck. Like the Open Cup replica?

It’s especially interesting when you have fervent fans who travel a great distance to see the recent expansion teams. They often offer insights on their teams’ successes and needs that you won’t get elsewhere. Tonight’s conversation with a Seattle supporter was no exception. Among the ground covered:

– If Adrian Hanauer were to stand today for re-election under the much-hyped promise to let fans retain or push out the GM, he’d have little trouble keeping his job. The Sounders aren’t matching last year’s results, but the good run last year didn’t give everyone unrealistic expectations.

– Freddie Ljungberg served the Sounders well in their first year, and there’s a certain amount of pride that the team’s medical staff fixed him up. But if it’s time for him to go elsewhere, so be it. The younger players could use more playing time, and the team can splurge on an even bigger designated player.

– Coach Sigi Schmid might be sticking with his old favorites (Peter Vagenas leaped to mind) a little too much.

– Players and fans need to get over their dislike of FieldTurf. World Cup qualifiers should be played at Qwest Field.

– The Seattle atmosphere is an awesome manifestation of civic pride.

And with that, he looked down (literally — visiting fans are in the upper deck) upon an unfilled lower bowl at RFK Stadium. He seemed surprised to learn that United fans, not too long ago, had filled that lower bowl on a regular basis. (Weeknights in traffic-choked, workaholic D.C. will always be tough, though.)

Continue reading MLS: Still not sturdy enough to wish for another team’s demise

D.C. United’s new star player … who?

D.C. United could use, among other things, an attacking midfielder. As Black and Red United points out, the current options don’t really fit the role. Jaime Moreno was never really the best player for that spot, and he doesn’t have the legs for it these days. Teen phenom Andy Najar’s too green. Santino Quaranta is better elsewhere on the field, as is Clyde Simms.

Here’s the question: Does D.C. United need an attacking midfielder so badly that they should use one of the budget-busting Designated Player slots on a guy who won’t see any extra tickets outside Washington’s Montenegrin community?

(I’m assuming there is a Montenegrin community here — we have a community for every other country in the world. Then I’m assuming the Montenegrin community could name anyone on Montenegro’s national team, especially someone who appears not to be the captain. I shouldn’t rely on Wikipedia for such information, but I’m not relying on FIFA, either. Or UEFA, which followed MLS in expunging the “history” section when it revamped its Web site.)

Does D.C. United need an attacking midfielder so badly that they’ll use that DP slot on a guy who couldn’t get much playing time at Paris Saint-Germain five years ago and has been toiling in the obscurity of the Austrian Bundesliga since then?

So while it may be too early to cast doubt on the abilities of one Branko Bošković, D.C. United’s new attacking midfielder, it’s not too early to wonder if such a signing is what the league had in mind with the DP rule. It’s the “Beckham rule,” designed to bring well-known players who might lift the quality of play and, not incidentally, lift TV ratings and sell a few tickets. Beckham does that. Cuauhtemoc Blanco does that. Juan Pablo Angel’s impact is harder to measure, but he had enough of a name to make a few people take notice.

Also, there’s no harm in using the DP slot to retain or reclaim an American who might have designs on Europe, at least the lesser European leagues. Granted, United doesn’t have an American player on the roster who could fill a DP slot, though Najar might be worth it in a couple of years if he keeps up his rapid progress.

If Bošković had come in as a discovery player making $200K, few would’ve thought to question it. But the new guy might face a bit of pressure if he’s the big-deal United signing while clubs to the north, geographically and in the standings, are talking about Thierry Henry or Robert Pires.