After a full offseason of positive moves that made the fanbase very happy – drafting the top rated player with the No. 3 pick, trading for one National Team player and adding another out of nowhere through the allocation process, cutting ties with lots of unproductive players – D.C. United has finally made a move that has us scratching our heads.
Julius James was waived today.
James was by most accounts the best defender on United’s roster last season. This very community even voted him for the Popie Award by a wide margin. He plays central defender the way a defender should: strong, fast, consistent, quick-thinking. James also has a bit of a knack for heroics – His two most recent goals each came in the final 10 minutes of a match – one to give United a victory on the road against Toronto FC last season, and one to come within a few minutes of earning D.C. a playoff appearance in 2009.
But none of that was enough, apparently. Despite having only 28 players in camp, United doesn’t have room on its roster for a proven 26-year old defender making $61,000 a year.
It looks as if James had dropped down the depth chart this season, as Rodrigo Brasesco and Perry Kitchen have been playing with the first team at center back, and with Dejan Jakovic still having a great deal of potential despite his disappointing 2010 season. But even as the fourth ranked center back on the roster, and even at $61K, James isn’t a bad guy to have around. Its never a bad thing to have four capable center backs. Meanwhile, we have seven players competing for playing time in central midfield.
I’m probably wrong, but the thought occurred to me that there could be more to this move than just financial reasons. Why waive the guy the day after flying him to California? Just like how the team cut Barry Rice the same day that players reported for duty in D.C. for the first time. It smells a little bit. Did James break a team rule or something?
On the bright side, waiving Julius James and trading an international roster spot to the Los Angeles Galaxy for allocation money could be a sign that United is preparing for something else bigger. Like a goalkeeper. Or a veteran center back. Maybe we’re not done yet afterall.