Keeping the back line intact was an important priority for D.C. United heading into the 2013 season. United's defensive unit made strides this season, looking much improved from previous years, so keeping the group together would go a long way towards helping the team return to the playoffs next season. Signing Dejan Jakovic to a new contract was a huge step in fulfilling that goal. This week, United took another step by re-signing Robbie Russell.
The 33-year old veteran made 19 appearances for United this season, scoring one goal. We won't know Russell's new salary for the 2013 season for another several months, but he's likely taking a bit of a pay cut to stay with his family in D.C. again this coming season. Russell made just under $110,000 in 2012, which was down from his $134,000 contract with Real Salt Lake the previous season.
Russell seems to have lost a bit of his speed, but he's a consistent and smart defender. It's no coincidence that he always appears to be in the right position to either deal with the opposing team's offense or jump into the attack when possible. Russell also has an apparent knack for stepping up in big games. Russell proved this year that his penalty kick goal that clinched MLS Cup 2009 wasn't just a fluke as he contributed to the most important goal of United's season this year also. His perfectly-weighted through ball to Nick DeLeon turned out to be the assist on the late winning goal that knocked the New York Red Bulls out of the playoffs and put D.C. into the Eastern Conference Finals.
Russell was filling in for the suspended Andy Najar at the time. It's possible that Russell could be filling in for Najar on a full-time basis if the Honduran's training stint with Anderlecht becomes something more permanent. In the least though, Russell is the likely candidate to start at right back whenever Najar is with his national team or decides to throw a ball at a referee.