There aren't a lot of guys who can say with absolute authority that a swing of their leg definitely won MLS Cup. Robbie Russell is one of those guys, scoring the walk-off finish as Real Salt Lake won the 2009 MLS Cup in penalties. Hopefully he'll get to raise MLS Cup again this year - and not just because he now plays for D.C. United: indications are that this will be the 33-year-old's final season, and Russell is a classy guy who deserves to go out on top.
United gained Russell's services through a class move by both Russell and RSL. RSL needed to clear cap space, and Russell wanted to be closer to his wife, an attorney in D.C. RSL traded him to United for a pittance, and the fullback accepted a pay cut to come to the Nation's Capital. Sure, both sides got what they wanted - cap space and proximity to family, respectively - but both took somewhat of a hit to make it happen. Ultimately D.C. United benefited, among other ways, to tune of the series-winning assist in the MLS playoff series against the Metros.
Russell signed a new one-year deal with United this off-season, and it looks likely to be his last in the league. The Duke product has definitely lost a step in the last couple of years, and with the pace of MLS wingers not going anywhere but up, that's an issue. He is probably third on the depth chart at right fullback now, with the return of Daniel Woolard pushing Chris Korb to the right and the acquisition of James Riley, and he's no higher than third - more likely fourth - at center back.
But he definitely provides value. On the field, when we're pushing for a late goal, he has the smarts to know when to ghost into the attack and the vision-skill combination to make a pass through the defense to set up a guy like Nick DeLeon to score the biggest goal of his career-to-date. You know what? Let's just watch that goal now - I'm still pumped after yesterday's release of this year's commercial.
Beyond the on-field attributes, though, Russell can be a font of knowledge for our younger players. He's played overseas and has seen everything in MLS. He's a winner and a champion and a good dude. But I have a hunch - just a hunch, nothing more - that Russell could be involved with the organization after this year, even if not as a player.
Share your thoughts on Russell - favorite memories, his role this year, whether you miss his long-gone dreadlocks - in the comments.