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D.C. United season review: Lloyd Sam

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We review the midfielder whose midseason pickup sparked an offense.

On July 7th, D.C. United announced the acquisition of Lloyd Sam from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for General Allocation Money (GAM) and Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). It was one of several midseason moves the Black-and-Red made to attempt to move up from the near-bottom of the Eastern Conference standings into playoff position. You can say that Sam, who appeared in 16 matches in 2016 for the Red Bulls with only 1 goal and 4 assists, took the new situation as an opportunity to help what was once a rival turn their season around.

Sam’s acquisition was arguably the one that finalized the revitalized United offensive attack. He started 13 matches for the Black-and-Red and in that time he scored 3 goals and notched 6 assists, which was 3rd most on the season for the team. The Englishman was an offensive spark for United once he joined the starting lineup, helping the team move from 7th place all the way to 4th and the playoffs.

Sam’s movement on the wings was where he thrived, making moves to create space to send the ball in to the feet of Patrick Mullins or Luciano Acosta. His ability to move without the ball created a lot of scoring opportunities and overall made our attack more potent than it had shown in the first part of the season before his arrival. Finally, his work rate led to results and points in the standings. His performance against Toronto FC on October 1st and New York City FC on October 16th were crucial in our 4-match winning streak and he was nominated for MLS Team of the Week both of those weeks. We only lost twice after trading for Sam, and the 23 points we accumulated with him in the lineup was half our final total.

If there were a couple negatives to Lloyd Sam's game, the first is that he apparently spoke to Lionard Pajoy before he debuted for United. Sam was offside 11 times in his 13 matches for the team, which meant that almost every match he was good for being offside once. Now, this could be spun to the view that being offside meant he was being aggressive on the offensive end to create scoring chances, but how many of them were chances thwarted because he was past the last defender? The second area of improvement would be his possession of the ball. There were times he tried to do too much in attempting to score and gave up the ball with no cover behind him. Still, there was a lot to be proud of for Lloyd Sam this season in D.C. and he was an important asset down the stretch.

Lloyd Sam’s ability to find the open man inside the box and also knock some balls into the net himself is something that was welcome this season to right a stagnated attack. His movement and work rate was a spark to the team as they climbed their way into the playoffs and hosting a knockout round match. Still, Sam will likely command a heavy salary to keep him in United colors next season, and his age (32) means he’s on the tail end of his career, and natural decline should be expected. That said, we pose the question to you all: