Just when you were getting used to the idea of losing Jordan Graye. Just when the expansion draft was winding down without many major shocks. Just when you were finished packing for Thanksgiving and preparing emotionally for your annoying aunt's insults ("You're still working there?!"). D.C. United went and pulled off the biggest move of the day.
United acquired the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft Dax McCarty. In exchange, the Portland Timbers will receive Rodney Wallace and United's fourth round pick in the MLS Superdraft. D.C. will also get a bit of allocation money in the deal.
McCarty had only one goal and two assists in 2010 (you could say he'll fit into United's roster quite well), but he was absolutely huge in the playoffs, scoring the series winning goal to put FC Dallas through against Real Salt Lake, and was considered by some to be the MLS Cup MVP.
Questions about McCarty's maturity even faded late in the season.
"I’ve definitely come a long way, grown up and matured a lot," McCarty told MLSsoccer.com. "I’ve learned how to be a little bit more of a professional. I think that goes into how you prepare and how you play."
Wallace and a fourth is a lot to give up. He started immediately as a rookie in 2009, tallying three goals and three assists while playing mostly on the left wing. Wallace was moved to left back this season, which is where he spent most of his college days at the University of Maryland.
All things considered, this is a fairly even trade. Both are young. Both have heaps of potential. Wallace plays a position that not many people play well in MLS, but McCarty plays a position that United sorely lacked since Ben Olsen grew out of the role.
It would be a good trade for most teams in most isutations. But I'm not sure if it's the right trade for this team in this situation. Keep reading and you'll find out why.
I can't find the exact post, but I remember writing last season that it was essential for D.C. to select a new head coach prior to the expansion draft so he could have a say in who to protect. I also remember Chest Rockwell convincing me that it wasn't really worth fretting over whether its the coach or general manager who selects the final few guys for the protection list, because those final few guys shouldn't be critical to our long-term success. The difference between Jordan Graye and Stephen King isn't going to impact whether or not we make the playoffs in 2011.
But this move? This is the type of move I want a head coach consulting on.
As Charlie Boehm suggested earlier, the next head coach was supposed to be the one deciding between Wallace and Marc Burch for the left back position. The next head coach may have elected to move Wallace back into central midfield instead, where he had some success in 2009. Or the next head coach may have had a great plan in mind for utilizing Branko Boskovic and Clyde Simms together in central midfield without the need for McCarty. Or the next head coach may be set in his preference for running a diamond 4-4-2 with a true No. 10 in the middle. United's current roster is very prohibitive to that formation.
The trade also frustrates me because it shows a total lack of faith in the Superdraft. With Graye and Wallace gone, United now has only two players on its roster from the previous four years of drafts. Chris Pontius and Brandon Barklage, one of whom has played only seven MLS matches. The team gave up a first round pick last year for Troy Perkins, and now they've already traded away their second and fourth round picks in 2011.
Drafting Pontius and Wallace together in 2009 was possibly the best thing that Dave Kasper has done in his entire career. So much for that. But who knows, maybe the acquisition of Dax McCarty will top it.