The summer has been busy for former Major League Soccer player and D.C. United star Santino Quaranta. The Baltimore native is in the middle of running one of the country's top soccer camps, the Pipeline Soccer Club, at Friends School.
He also continues to work as the head coach of the Baltimore Bohemians of the Premier Development League. But as busy as he has been, Quaranta still loves his job as Comcast SportsNet's D.C. United color analyst alongside play-by-play man Dave Johnson.
Quaranta, who is in his second year with the network, spoke with PressBoxDC.com about why D.C. United has succeeded under head coach Ben Olsen and how the new D.C. United stadium will change the Washington sports landscape.
PressBox: At this point in the season, why is D.C. United the most dominant team in the MLS Eastern Conference?
Santino Quaranta: It is incredible to watch this group of talented players and how well they are so willing to adapt to Ben's [Olsen] multiple lineup rotation. So many players have been injured, leading Ben to play many as 20 different lineups. Yet, each time these players take to the pitch, they are committed to play as a single unit and to do whatever it takes to win.
It is very much a selfless team that has taken on the personality of Ben Olsen, where individual stats are not as meaningful as team wins. As someone who has played in this league, I can tell you the way Ben manages players, ego's, injuries and crafts different lineups that play to the strengths of the players on his roster is amazing.
PB: D.C. United has stayed away from going after international superstars and built a team of quality role players. Why is that?
SQ: Soccer, like any other sport, is about team chemistry and learning to play within a system. If you look at the history of the MLS players like David Beckham of the [Los Angeles] Galaxy and Thierry Henry at New York Red Bull has brought the glitz and glamour to the league. At the same time, both were able to work within a system. But signing a superstar is not a guarantee that you will win in this league. This is no longer a place for an aging superstar to come and expect to do well. The league has gotten much better and much faster for some to come here on holiday and too succeed.
Meanwhile, D.C. United has not gone after the big-name international star. Instead, they have signed top quality role players that fit their system, and clearly it is a formula that has helped them return to being one of the top teams in the MLS, where they both belong and should be.
PB: So is the trend to bring international superstars to the MLS a bad thing?
SQ: No, not at all. I am very excited to see former English Premier League stars like Steven Gerrard now part of the LA Galaxy, along with countryman Frank Lampard, who will join former Barcelona star David Villa with New York FC in our division. And we can't forget Orlando City with striker Kaka.
Look, it proves the point that the MLS is becoming one of the top international leagues. Playing soccer in the United States is now a cool thing, and the league is drawing big crowds, plus TV ratings are up, both locally and nationally. Soccer, in this country, continues to grow, and the health of the MLS is strong as they expand into new markets.
As for D.C. United, adding a big-name superstar to their lineup in the years to come, the team ownership is dedicated to winning. They are constantly improving every aspect of the team on the field and the fan experience off the field, so I would never rule anything out. However, at the moment, they are in first place, and things are going well, so why mess with a good thing?
PB: The new D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point near Nationals Park is set to open in 2017. What will that mean to the team and community?
SQ: As much as we all love the history of old RFK Stadium, it is well past time to move on. The new D.C. United stadium is not only going to be a showcase building, it will change the landscape of Washington sports. That entire Southeast waterfront neighborhood is going to be exciting with the new entertainment and retail projects planned for the area. The new stadium is going to become the marquee venue in the city and one of the top soccer stadiums in the country the moment it opens.
I know everyone I talk to in Baltimore and up and down the East Coast can't wait for it to open. The ownership of D.C. United has plans to make the stadium a true sports destination, and I know we will likely sell it out for all the home games with our great fan base. So I think the location, the way the young fans love these new soccer-only stadiums and new family-friendly neighborhood are all things to be excited about. This stadium will be something special, and I know that I am far from the only one who can't wait for the new place to open.