Anyone who talks about D.C. United on a regular basis has said it: If
The Transporter Chev "Crank" Chelios Turkish Daniel Woolard goes down with an injury, we're in trouble. The reasoning was simple: United has no natural left back other than Woolard. The first option was to move second-choice right back Chris Korb to the left, followed by playing the versatile Lewis Neal there, followed by...uh...coming up with a Plan C and then doing that, whatever it is.
Even our Plan A came with problems. Korb has plenty to learn at his preferred position on the right, and Robbie Russell is likely weeks away from playing due to plantar fasciitis. That means Korb is, for right now, our top right back. An injury to Woolard at the same time would border on the disastrous.
You probably know where this is going: Woolard's clash of heads with Emiliano Dudar while both were bravely trying to head a dangerous ball away was momentarily followed by Chris Pontius rather agitatedly signalling that United needed to make an immediate substitution for a player who has been virtually ever-present this season.
Neal came in at left back, looked out of his element, and eventually got moved into the midfield as Dejan Jakovic entered to play left back for the first time ever (at least for United). Jakovic also looked like someone playing a totally unfamiliar position - because that's what he was, given his total lack of experience there - and United had to hang on grimly against the anemic Crew offense.
Woolard looked woozy, and his concussion history - not to mention United's as a team - means DCU is probably looking at a bizarre set of defenders for this weekend's crucial game at Sporting Kansas City. Korb at left back and returning Olympian Andy Najar on the right seems like the most reasonable move, but like a Civil War doctor amputating your ruined limb, it's only "reasonable" because the alternative is worse.
Perhaps it's now time for United to finally do something about this pesky left back situation and acquire real depth. The international transfer window is closed, but MLS teams can still make trades until September 14th. The recent re-negotiation of Branko Boskovic's contract has left us with the cap space to sign someone, and we have roster space as well (even without placing Lance Rozeboom on the season-ending injured reserve).
In a two-part series, we're going to look at potential players United could conceivably acquire before the roster freeze, and what could obstruct such moves.
Before we start, I should note that United could sign a free agent at any time before 9/14 (which is an MLS-imposed roster freeze; the end of the MLS transfer window is per FIFA rules. Got all that?), but the vast number of international free agents make speculating about who we should go get next to impossible. If you know of a free agent that would come to MLS for regular MLS wages and is capable of playing MLS-quality soccer right away, you should probably contact the club (feel free to comment here, though).
This list is roughly in order of the ease with which United could acquire the player (i.e. a player currently being used as a regular, or a player that will require us to also go get an international roster spot, is harder to acquire than a domestic player who isn't getting time).
Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers)
Salary: $110,000 base/$159,000 guaranteed
We all know Wallace from his time with United, and while the trade that sent him to Portland was a reasonable one, it wasn't like people wanted to see a young, promising player with local ties leave. Bringing him back would add instant depth at left back as well as further forward, and would give United an upgrade in terms of attacking out of the back.
Wallace should be fairly easy to acquire. Injuries have seen him fall down the pecking order in Portland, where Scottish veteran Steven Smith was brought in to take over the left back position. The Timbers are currently more interested in bolstering their abysmal center backs than having an overlapping threat, so Wallace doesn't currently fit their plans. Wallace also has a green card, so we wouldn't need to acquire an international spot. The Timbers should already be looking to move players to build for 2013, so you'd have to imagine that they'd be receptive to offers.
The only downside would be Wallace's salary, which is a product of his Generation Adidas contract coming out of college. Wallace would have to agree to play for less next season, but for 2012 his deal shouldn't be seen as a significant deterrent
Hunter Jumper (Chicago Fire)
Salary: $33,750 (base and guaranteed)
Jumper is a rookie, and entered this year's draft as a top choice for anyone looking for a left back. Jumper has been used at center back (he's 6'2") and left midfield as well as at left back, so he would provide further cover in other spots as well as the more immediate problem at left back.
Chicago recently had to replace normal starter Gonzalo Segares due to injury, and went with Dan Gargan out of position rather than use Jumper. That means he's probably available at a reasonable price, especially once the Fire look at the glut of defenders they'll have once Cory Gibbs returns from injury next season. Jumper may not be a world-beater, but he's at least as good as Korb is at right back and actually plays a bit like Woolard (i.e. more conservatively than Korb).
Plus, there's his name, which is clearly awesome. At this salary, Jumper is arguably the best choice on this list when you factor in both addressing our need and the potential cost of such a trade. If he'd have gone to a team without an established veteran left back like Gonzalo Segares, Jumper would have been pushing for real minutes this season. The aforementioned choice of Gargan ahead of him wasn't always the way Frank Klopas would have gone this season. This kid can play.
The big issue might actually be on United's end, depending on what sort of roster spot Raphael Augusto is taking up. If he's an "off-budget" player, United will have to either place Rozeboom on IR or let someone go. That decision in turn depends on Rozeboom's recovery; his torn ACL happened early enough that he could theoretically still contribute this season. It seems far more likely that he'd just be put on IR, but you never know.
Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Salary: $55,000 base/$60,600 guaranteed
There's a lot to like about Teibert. He was a member of Canada's Olympic Qualifying squad, and despite his age is rumored to be inching closer to getting minutes for a strong Whitecaps team. On last season's struggling Whitecaps side, there was some disappointment in the stands that neither Teitur Thordarson nor Tom Soehn could find that much time for one of Canada's top young prospects.
Teibert was initially thought of as a left midfielder when signed to a Homegrown deal, but is now seen more as a left back. The Whitecaps already have Alain Rochat and Jordan Harvey battling for time in this spot - Martin Rennie likes Harvey enough that he gets the former Philadelphia Union man into games whenever Vancouver is protecting a lead - so Teibert's future might lie elsewhere.
Obviously there might be issues with starting a newly acquired teenager at a position he's only been learning for roughly a year. However, Teibert has a very bright future, and would immediately be a contender to be our best fullback in terms of crossing the ball. The biggest obstacle here would probably be the acquisition of an international spot, though Vancouver might also be hesitant to move their most prominent Academy grad so early in his career.