Three coaches are in South America, four players had their contract options declined, and seven front office employees were let go.

That’s how the D.C. United offseason has gotten underway, starting Friday with the notable departure of executive vice president Stephen Zack, an original team employee who was among those let go in the front office, ticketing, marketing and digital departments.

Are those exits a surprise? It depends on who you ask. The new ownership group has always been intent on doing what it views as necessary to improve the business, and there are plenty of people who think it’s been long overdue. Certainly not everyone, given plenty of people were also surprised with the departure of president and CEO Kevin Payne, too.

The changes could’ve started when the new owners took over during the summer, and that they’ve started now instead could be seen as the end of an evaluation period. Due diligence was going on before the purchase happened, and it’s continued ever since. That said, it’s also a harsh way to head into the holidays, to say the least, and it’s always sad to see people lose their jobs.

Meanwhile, Ben Olsen and two assistant coaches – I’m assuming that it means Chad Ashton and Josh Wolff, since Pat Onstad was at the Georgetown NCAA tournament game on Saturday – are in South America eyeing potential talent to add to the D.C. United roster this offseason. Argentina is the base of operations for their 10-day trip, but the scouting mission isn’t limited to that country.

The 2013 season is just around the corner, and there’s buzz that D.C. United could start it overseas in Indonesia and the Middle East.

In any case, the offseason began in earnest on Monday, and that means contract options all over the league were declined, including four D.C. United players: defenders Mike Chabala and Emiliano Dudar, midfielder Stephen King, and forward Maicon Santos. Chabala, King and Santos are all eligible for the MLS re-entry draft, the first stage of which takes place Friday.

The decisions on Santos and Dudar essentially reflect that both players were probably overpriced for their contributions in 2012. Santos ($106,000 base, $114,000 guaranteed) started hot and faded badly while Dudar ($225,000/$238,000) never locked down a first-choice spot at center back when fully healthy. King and Chabala did not figure in plans much during the season.

D.C. United can still negotiate with the players prior to the re-entry draft. The full list of players currently available league-wide is here.