D.C. United acquired left midfielder Austin Da Luz from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for the international roster slot sent to New York on Saturday.
Normally in the world of MLS trades, "future considerations" is shorthand for "the rights to a player we were about to cut/is going to Europe" or "the last pick in the Supplemental Draft." When D.C. United traded an international roster slot to the New York Red Bulls, expectations were low. My reaction at the time was that even a supplemental pick would make it worthwhile, since we only have two international players at the moment (Dejan Jakovic and Branko Boskovic). We just didn't need the roster slot in the short (or even medium) term. These things normally take a little while to shake out, and the "future considerations" end up being announced in a short, Friday afternoon press release that is all but forgotten the moment it comes out.
Not this time.
United announced today that the makeweight for that international spot is left midfielder Austin Da Luz, a highly rated prospect out of Wake Forest University. Da Luz, a 2007 NCAA champion with the Demon Deacons, was drafted 14th overall in the 2010
SuperDraft by NY. In two seasons with the Red Bulls, Da Luz has one goal and one assist in 11 appearances (four of which came in U.S. Open Cup play).
While those career stats might not be impressive, it's important to note the context of Da Luz's situation. Joel Lindpere is one of MLS's best players, and that's who NY had above Da Luz on the depth chart. Despite Red Bulls fans often crying out to see more of Da Luz, Hans Backe only began to call on Da Luz during his side's Gold Cup-provoked shortage of players. In a 3-3 draw with the Portland Timbers about a month ago, Da Luz scored the opener and later helped spark a comeback from 3-1 down by setting up Thierry Henry for a 73rd minute goal.
So what are we getting here? Da Luz is a shifty left midfielder with a very high soccer IQ; this is not your typical NCAA wide man who is an athlete first and a soccer player second. Da Luz is a gifted passer, has excellent touch, and will offer Ben Olsen a way to change things up on the flank. Da Luz doesn't have the speed of Chris Pontius or Andy Najar, but like them he will pinch inside; the difference is that he'll be looking more to play combination passes to split teams open rather than sprinting past defenders. He also brings a decent array of tricks on the dribble, which helps him get past defenders when he does choose to stay wide and go 1v1.
Personally, I think this is a fantastic move for United, and for Da Luz. D.C. gave up something we absolutely were not going to make use of any time soon to address something we need right now. Injuries have robbed us of three potential sources of depth on the wings, and a fourth - Fred da Silva - is playing his last game in a United shirt on Wednesday night. Even if those players were healthy, though, none of them were true left midfielders. Da Luz, on the other hand, is a natural at the position.
It's not often you can get a first round pick (and make no mistake: Da Luz was not a reach by any stretch of the imagination going at No. 14 last year) for such a low price. Between this move and the recent trades for Brandon McDonald and Dwayne De Rosario, it seems fair to say that GM Dave Kasper has gotten his swagger back. I know he's still not going to be very popular around Lot 8, but you have to give credit where credit is due.
I also like that United, after a long streak of mostly poor foreign signings, has opted to focus on another path to success. There's little to be gained from banging your head against a wall, and now United has a solid base to add accomplished foreign players to, rather than adding them first and then hoping to build the foundation later.