Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Onalfo introduced in DC today

Curt Onalfo was introduced to the DC fans in a press conference Tuesday morning. He is the 6th head coach at DC United and is replacing the "not returning" Tom Soehn. Onalfo announced his staff Tuesday as well. He is reuniting with Kris Kelderman, his top assistant in Kansas City and he is retaining goalkeepers coach Mark Simpson. Recently retired Ben Olsen was added as well.

Curt Onalfo played in DC in 1998-99 and was an assistant there from 2000 through 2002. Curt then was an assistant with the National Team prior to becoming the head coach in Kansas City in 2007. Coach Onalfo was dismissed from Kansas City mid season of 2009.

Onalfo took over a Wizards team that had not made the playoffs for two years and was able to incrementally increase the team's performance to get them into the playoffs. Possible his greatest success was with Eddie Johnson. In 2006, Johnson scored 2 goals in 19 appearances. Onalfo was able to motivate Johnson in the 2007 season and Eddie scored 15 goals in 24 games and attracted the attention of Fulham in England.

During the 2008 season when it looked as if the Wizards would need a miraculous turn around to get to the playoffs, Coach Onalfo never wavered, never stopped believing that the team would get there. This optimism and faith is some his greatest strengths. While some fans may have criticized Onalfo for always being optimistic, it was never an act. He believed.

This optimism is a result of Curt's life. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease when he was 24. It was in an advanced state and Curt fought through intense chemotherapy for six months. His positive outlook and determination carried him through and he now carries that in all aspects of his life. That fight sapped his ability to play (he did try for a few more years) but led him into coaching. Onalfo worked his way through various assistant jobs to be in consideration for head coaching jobs, eventually landing in Kansas City.

While Coach Onalfo's optimism and positive outlook can be his greatest strengths, it can also lead to some of his issues. He believes in his players, his men. That can lead him to moving players out of position believing those players can overcome and perform no matter where they play. Much of Onalfo's playing, assistant coaching and learning came at the National Team levels. At that level you can take your best players and put them on the field and expect them to be able to play that position with a few exceptions. At the club level it is not that easy. Just believing that a player can move to another position and start right away does not work as often. Others have described this as too much tinkering, I call it too much optimism and faith.

With all that said I have a lot of respect for Curt. Coach, I would like to wish you good luck professionally but since you are in DC I can not really do that. I do wish you and your family all the best.

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