- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2001

D.C. United president Kevin Payne said yesterday that coach Thomas Rongen's job is not in jeopardy.

Payne's vote of confidence comes in the wake of United's 3-0 loss at the Dallas Burn on Saturday. It was United's fifth straight loss, the longest losing streak in club history.

Payne said he was personally "embarrassed" by United's performance, but added that Rongen is not the one to blame for United's disappointing 3-7 record. After 10 games last season, United was 2-7-1 and finished the season with its worst record ever at 8-18-6.

"[Rongen] has certain protections in his contract like most people with a contract do, but if I thought that was the way to solve our problems, I would [fire him] and I could do it," Payne said. "Thomas came here with the baggage of a whole bunch of bitter New England fans that had excoriated him on the Internet forgetting the fact that at that point he was the only guy that had ever gotten [the Revolution] into the playoffs."

Apparently, United's loyal fans have seen enough. An Internet-organized fan group calling itself the United Liberation Front is planning a protest for tomorrow's night match against the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (6-3-2) at RFK Stadium. They will wear T-shirts and display banners that ask for Rongen's removal as coach.

"It's a free country, you can do what you want to do," Payne said. "They are not going to dictate how we make decisions."

The United Liberation Front also suggested that it would boycott future United home games as another form of protest.

Rongen is in the final year of a contract that pays him more than $200,000 annually.

Despite United's rebuilding process, Payne didn't expect the team's record to be this bad with one-third of the season complete.

"I'm concerned that we're not getting results. We are all searching for answers," Payne said. "I was very, very distressed at the way we played against Dallas. There have been very few games in our history where I was embarrassed and I was embarrassed at the way we performed in Dallas. I will discuss it with the team this week."

Until the Dallas debacle, United had played some entertaining soccer, but has come up short. United has lost four games this season when it led in the second half.

Last February, United underwent a housecleaning in a flurry of trades. It was an attempt to bring in young talent and to get some breathing room under the salary cap. That young talent has not helped the numbers in the win column.

Two of the trades may have backfired. United needs defensive help, but the club traded away veteran defenders Jeff Agoos and Carlos Llamosa in separate deals last winter.

"We lost quite a few key performers and we knew going into [the housecleaning] that was the direction we wanted to go," Rongen said. "We knew we had a World Cup coming up, a lot of qualifying games coming up, and we wanted to get some stability within the team. Next year, we're going to face the same problems again and have to move one or two big players."

United has been trying to trade disgruntled forward Raul Diaz Arce, preferably for an established defender. Payne said Diaz Arce, a Salvadoran icon, probably would be dealt sometime today. Payne wouldn't elaborate on which team is willing to take on Diaz Arce's age (31) and salary ($100,000).

The Tampa Bay Mutiny are looking for a goal scorer and are willing to part with Ghanian defender Joe Addo. Addo received his green card yesterday and no longer counts as a senior international on a roster. Payne didn't rule out transferring Diaz Arce to a club outside the country, possibly Central America, which would free up a senior international roster spot.

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