- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

D.C. United fired coach Ray Hudson yesterday after he led the club to its first playoff berth in four seasons.

The colorful Hudson, who went 19-27-14 in two seasons, did not have the option year of his contract extended. Hudson’s contract expires Dec.31. John Trask, Hudson’s top assistant, is not likely to be retained.

Calls to Hudson were not returned.

“It was a decision based on a bunch of considerations and trying to look at the whole picture,” said Kevin Payne, who is the senior vice president of the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the company that operates United and four other Major League Soccer teams. “In general, the decision was made given what the club believed was needed to move the team forward.”

Forward for United means 14-year-old phenom Freddy Adu.

The writing was on the wall for Hudson when he did not accompany United brass to New York two weeks ago for Adu’s signing. Adu, who lives with his family in Potomac, said he only would sign with MLS if he played in Washington so he could live with his family. To secure Adu’s rights, United traded a major allocation to the last-place Chicago Burn for the top pick in next month’s MLS Draft.

The United front office apparently didn’t believe Hudson was the man to develop the teenager considered the future of American soccer.

Hudson has a reputation for not playing young players. This season several of United’s younger players complained privately about their lack of playing time and talked about being traded. It seemed every MLS team received contributions from its draft picks this season except United, and MLS did not make Adu the highest-paid player in the league just so he could sit on the bench.

Now United will look for its fourth coach. Possible candidates include the San Jose Earthquakes’ Frank Yallop, a former United assistant; U.S. national team assistant Curt Onalfo; U.S. under-17 coach John Ellinger; MetroStars assistant Mo Johnston; and ex-Dallas Burn coach Mike Jeffries, who grew up in Bethesda and has ties to the area.

Of those candidates, Onalfo and Ellinger appear the most appealing.

Onalfo, who played for United during its glory years, served as United’s interim coach after Thomas Rongen was fired in 2001.

Ellinger, who is a Maryland native, helped develop Adu, United midfielder Bobby Convey and United forward Santino Quaranta with U.S. Soccer’s residency program in Bradenton, Fla.

However, the 52-year-old Ellinger lacks experience. He was an assistant for the Columbus Crew in 1996. Ellinger does have reputation for developing younger players and comes highly praised by U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena, whose input influences many of United’s decisions.

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