Upon entering from the ramp, there was an L-shaped arrangement of catering tables. 1) Make your own nachos: tortilla chips in a paper basket with liquid cheese in a chafing dish and variety of toppings; 2) sausages and rolls: 2-3 kinds of sausages to choose from; 3) ziti with marinara or alfredo sauce and Parmesan cheese for topping; 4) cooked while wait cheese quesadillas [not nearly as good as Chef Dave’s]. Open bar with bottled water, Pepsi products and beer. [Bartenders still insisted on keeping the bottle caps. I asked if they thought we were going to throw bottles at Benny.]
The other part of the lounge had folding chairs arranged theater style facing a blank wall and exit door with 4 stools. You could hear audio about the team. But the video was only being shown on 1 TV near the bar, even though there were TVs in the seating area, as well.
DCU staff were all over the place. Most of them were not familiar and were assumed to be new. Fortunately, they had nametags on and the men were identifiable because they were wearing suits.
Around 7:30, Ben came in and mingled with a few STHs. About 10 minutes later, Doug Hicks, Perry Kitchen and Bill Hamid came in and joined Ben on the stools at the front.
Doug started out with a show of hands by renewing STHs and new STHs. [It was about 75/25 split]. Doug went over the new STH benefits. 1) Referral program where existing STH who recommend a new STH will receive 10% of new STH fee to use for future ticket purchases, including ticket renewals. 2) New exclusive STH entrance near Gate A. 3) New exclusive STH Champions Club, with food. [The food provided for the event was a test of food for the Champions Club.]
Doug went on to say that the sales team has a goal of selling out at least 4 games this season, including the home opener. He also acknowledged the sales team, in attendance, of 15 people. Most of them did not look familiar. Also, they’re all men. [Dan Giffin is still there.] Doug also acknowledged the 4-person customer service group, who are all women. [My friend couldn’t help noticing the gender split and wondered why the sales group were all men.]
NOTE: Hicks insists that Deborah's perception of this uniform gender split was incorrect:
"there is (and has been) gender (and race) diversity in both departments"
Ben opened with positive comments about having kept guys that were important to last year’s good season. He said this season will be different, in that other teams will not be surprised by DCU and will be playing tougher.
The Q&A portion was opened. It took at least 30 minutes before someone asked Doug about the status of a new stadium. He said there’s nothing to announce yet. But, he said they finally have a ownership team with deep pockets and brought in a number of people, with experience, to focus on specific portions of the stadium issue. He said it’s best setup they’ve ever had to work on a stadium. He also said that once they have a deal in place, they’ll have the stadium ready in 18 months. To backtrack…Doug started his answering by commenting on how long it took for the question to come up and laughing. He went on to say that he was brought in to DCU in 2001, from MCI/Verizon Center, to get a stadium done. He said he had been involved in getting MCI/Verizon done and has been as disappointed as the rest of us that DCU has taken so long to do this.
When asked about filling creativity void left by Andy’s departure, Ben talked about Rafa #1, the one-named forward Rafael. He said he’s very skilled and exciting. But, he thinks he will have some transition issues since he’s “only 20.” Ben said, along with losing Andy, he was also disappointed that Bosko decided to leave to be closer to home.
When asked about forwards, he said Salihi is definitely leaving [one way or another]. He said they’ve been working with Pajoy on his finishing. Overall he likes Pajoy for all the other things he does. But, he knows they need him to finish better. Ben added that with the money they got from selling Andy, they’re still looking for ‘the right player’ to add.
On Rafa #2 [midfielder Raphael Augusto), Ben said they call him Augusto to cut down on confusion. He said in hindsight, he wished he had put Augusto into games earlier, rather than waiting until the final game of the season. But, he was focused on the fact that the team was playing well and he didn’t want to disrupt that.
On defense, Ben did not seem concerned about Andy’s departure because he thinks he’s got a good group of outside defenders. Though he admitted what they will miss is the offensive side of Andy’s game.
When asked about Pat Onstad’s departure, Ben said it was not a good time for that to happen. But, he understood Pat’s wanting to take the opportunity he was offered. Ben said they are, essentially, trying out GK Coaches. They had one guy with them during the first Florida trip and will be taking Preston Burpo on the next Florida trip. They trying them out to see who works out the best, with the players and other coaches. [Sorry, I forgot the name of the first guy they tested because his name was not familiar.]
Ben also answered questions about the new arrangement with the Richmond Kickers. He said they don’t have concrete plans, yet. But, he’s taking the Kickers coach with them to Florida. Obviously, DCU will be sending some players to Richmond to get minutes. They’re thinking it’ll be 4 players. But, they haven’t worked out whether those players will live in Richmond. He said DCU will also keep their eyes out for prospective players – maybe DCU can’t sign them at the time, but Richmond could. Then United could keep an eye on how they develop.
Someone asked Ben about a League effort to improve referees and whether Ben believed they’d be better this year. Ben answered “no,” with a laugh. Then he went on to point out that poor decisions are made by referees in all leagues, around the world.
Asked about CONCACAF Champions League…Ben said he’d like the team to get back into it. He thought, as a player it was a good experience. He said he thinks an MLS is going to win it sooner, rather than later. He also said that he thinks the current roster size (30 players) is okay for competing in MLS and CONCACAF. But, the problem is the depth of quality. [Essentially, the salary cap is too low to have good quality throughout the roster.]