Well ahead of the start of the 2021 preseason, D.C. United has signed first round pick Michael DeShields to a contract. United traded up to get into position to select the 6’1” center back during last month’s MLS SuperDraft, sending $125,000 in allocation money to Atlanta United in order to have a shot at picking the Wake Forest Demon Deacons defender.
In a team press release, United GM Dave Kasper said “Michael impressed us with his physicality, athleticism, and composure on the ball during his time with Wake Forest. We are adding important depth at center back and we’re excited that we were able to acquire someone of Michael’s pedigree in the draft. We are looking forward to welcoming Michael to the District.”
DeShields, a Baltimore native who played for former United attacker Santino Quaranta’s Pipeline SC program before heading off to Winston-Salem for collegiate soccer, was a full-time starter in two collegiate seasons before an injury kept him off the field this past fall. DeShields played a bit of right back before settling in as a first-choice center back for most of his Wake Forest career, scoring 3 goals in 60 NCAA appearances and making the All-South Region Second Team in 2019.
The move to sign DeShields quickly alleviates any lingering concern over a somewhat unusual situation with his playing rights. Following this fall’s NCAA season, DeShields signed a pro deal with New England Revolution II in USL League One, but as that league was also done for the year, DeShields never appeared. MLS ruled him eligible for the SuperDraft. Had United only opted to offer DeShields a USL deal with Loudoun United, his contract with Revolution II would have taken precedent, but a clause in that deal allowed him to sign an MLS contract without the Black-and-Red owing the New England organization any compensation.
DeShields brings United up to 24 players under contract, and bolsters a defensive group that was perilously short on center backs. Fellow SuperDraft selections Kimarni Smith and Logan Panchot are still unsigned, with Smith believed likely to suit up for Clemson this spring before then joining up with United at a later date. Panchot, who has already graduated from Stanford, appears likely to join the Black-and-Red for preseason, which begins on February 22.