On every team in every sport, there are key players, and there are role players. With the right key players, your team will compete for a championship. With the wrong key players, your team won't. Role players are important, but supplementary.
The distinction between the two is vital. Its why the Redskins were willing to trade four highly valued draft picks for the opportunity to select Robert Griffin III. The Redskins had been trying different role players at quarterback for 20 years, and we all know how far that's taken them. They were sick of using those draft picks on adding more role players. The only path the Redskins could see to a brighter future involved grabbing a key player at the quarterback position, and they gave up a lot to get him.
The answer is neither. And that's why we can all step back from the ledge when dissecting yesterday's trade.
We already know who the key players are on D.C. United. They have names like Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius, Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Emiliano Dudar, and Bill Hamid. Those are the guys we're going to battle with. Those are the guys who are either going to win us an MLS Cup, or not.
There are other players on the roster who could develop into key players as well. Nick DeLeon definitely has that potential. When they're at their best, Dejan Jakovic and Branko Boskovic do too. We hoped that Hamdi Salihi would be a key player for us, but it doesn't seem to be working out so far.
Cruz isn't on either one of those lists. Yeah, he played for the Houston Dynamo in MLS Cup last year, but he was a role player then, and he's still a role player now. He'll be a role player for the Philadelphia Union too. And although he's several years younger than Pajoy, does anyone really expect Cruz to develop into a player whose name will be mentioned next to DeRo, Pontius, and Hamid?
With that said, I don't expect Pajoy to be a key player either. He'll be a role player too.
So why trade role player for role player? Clearly Ben Olsen is happy with his wingers. Pontius and Najar are probably two of the top 10 wingers in the league, and DeLeon isn't far behind.
Olsen isn't as happy with his forwards. No one has yet to stake a claim on the spot next to De Rosario at the top of the formation. Pajoy will get a chance now too, and maybe he'll grab it, since Salihi, Santos, and Long Tan haven't been able to.
It's okay to be disappointed to see this trade happen. Cruz was a popular player for his work rate and attitude, and rightfully so. But we need to keep the end goal in sight. The goal isn't to have the most likeable team, is it? The goal is to win the MLS Cup. If Olsen thinks this gets us any bit closer to that goal, it's worth it.
So what do you think about the trade?