Big mid-season trades don't happen often in MLS. Or any American sports league for that matter. But today, DC United sent midfielder Dax McCarty to the New York Red Bulls in exchange for Dwayne De Rosario.
I said yesterday that United had solved its attacking problems, but hadn't yet solved its defensive problems. I also said that our top four attackers - Charlie Davies, Josh Wolff, Chris Pontius, and Andy Najar - are among the best in MLS. Make that five.
D.C. better hope that it can outscore opponents, because the requisite corresponding switch in formation from a bucket 4-4-2 to a diamond 4-4-2 will certainly not help our goals against average.
But this is absolutely the type of move that United needed to make to compete with the Philadelphia Union and Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference this season. Its a true No. 10, which fans have been calling for since the day Christian Gomez moved on. De Rosario will take up that No. 10 tradition with class. Filling the shoes of Gomez and Marco Etcheverry won't be easy. There are only three or four midfielders in MLS who could do it. De Rosario is one of them.
This move runs far deeper than just swapping midfielders with a division rival. Follow me beyond the break for more.
First of all, this drastic move says to me that this can no longer be considered a rebuilding year for United. No rebuilding team would ever trade a 25-year old with national team experience for a 33-year old, no matter their respective resumes. The expectations have now been raised exponentially for D.C. Its playoffs or bust again for us.
Secondly, the move tells me that United might not have very high hopes about finding an international player during the transfer window next month who can fill the central attacking midfield role. They could still go after a defender, but a team wouldn't be adding an attacker at such a big cost if they had plans of finding another one this summer.
Thirdly, its an indication that Ben Olsen hasn't been happy with the formation that the team has been using for the past two years. Two holding midfielders is a bit ambiguous. Its wishy-washy. Its no more.
Fourthly, coupled with the earlier trade that brought Brandon McDonald to D.C. from the San Jose Earthquakes (more on that later), and the pending return of Dejan Jakovic, the acquisition of De Rosario will probably eventually push Perry Kitchen into the central defensive midfield role where he shined at the University of Akron. Clyde Simms isn't quite the top-flight CDM that can hold down that portion of the field by himself. Hopefully Kitchen is.
And finally, I hate to say it because he's been so great to fans and has been the most eager to talk to reporters in the locker room, but this is becoming a major black mark on McCarty. He's on his fourth team in eight months. That's three coaches that don't see McCarty as having enough potential to keep on his roster. Either his style of play doesn't fit many MLS teams, or he hasn't yet reached the level where his teams truly value him.
Those are my thoughts. Overall positive, but slightly disconcerting given De Rosario's flightiness and lack of a guaranteed contract after this season. What are your thoughts?