clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lloyd Sam takes part in his first practice with D.C. United

New, 7 comments

Acquired from the New York Red Bulls last week, United’s new winger talked with the press after his first training session with the Black-and-Red

It was a strange sight to behold on Tuesday, as D.C. United returned to the practice field after the weekend’s 3-0 thumping at the hands of the Philadelphia Union. All the familiar faces were present at practice, but among them was someone who for years had been a thorn in the side of the Black-and-Red.

But there Lloyd Sam was, five days on from the surprising trade that brought him to United from the New York Red Bulls. Having gotten over the initial shock of the trade, being forced from the only team he had ever played for in MLS, Sam felt right at home among his new teammates.

"It was tough the first day. As I tweeted out, it was tough until I spoke to the coach here," Sam told reporters in his first media scrum with his new team. "Whenever a manager wants you, a wise man said, you got to go where the manager wants you. That reassured me. I was over that quite quickly."

Sam had originally tweeted out that he was in tears after the announcement of the trade came down on Thursday afternoon. It wasn’t easy for the winger at first to accept his fate, but speaking to manager Ben Olsen put him at ease.

Additionally, in that first conversation, they both agreed that it would be best if Sam joined his new team as soon as possible. Olsen offered an olive branch to Sam, to allow him to stay up in New York, and join up with the team this week. But after talking it out, Sam hopped on a train and met up with United in Chester, PA.

"We decided that I would come meet the team. He said that he’s not sure how my head is, whether I just wanted to report [this] week," Sam said. "But we both thought it as best if I met the team straight away there. And just get that all out of my head. If I was sitting around in New York, I don’t think that would have helped the situation."

Sam was also somewhat baffled at the notion that he was being traded to a team that he had help eliminate from the playoffs the previous two years. Even though there have been blockbuster trades between the Red Bulls and United in years past, it still strikes an odd chord for fans when the two teams do business. For Olsen, though, having to do business with a bitter rival is just that: Business.

"We’re not too concerned with that stuff. It’s a story outside of our circle, but it’s business," Olsen told reporters on Tuesday. "The players and staff all understand that. We look at it more as a very good acquisition, a guy that has been successful in this league."

With United and the Red Bulls facing off three times a year each season, and having met in the playoffs in each of the last two years, there’s plenty of familiarity between Sam and United. Olsen knew all about Sam’s game, and got a player in the deal that he believes suits his system perfectly.

"A guy who understands when to go and attack, he’s got a final ball. He’s one of the best guys in the league at getting crosses off, connecting with forwards," Olsen said of his new winger. "He can score, he understands his role defensively, he’s a two way player. Everything we want in that position."

A source of some concern for Sam this year might be his statistical output. In 2015, Sam scored 10 goals, and added in 7 helpers, his best season since he came to MLS in 2012. But this year, the Englishman has only one goal and four assists to his name, on par with his 2013 campaign, when he was mainly appearing as a substitute.

Sam received fewer minutes per game this year, though, and the Red Bulls struggled out of the gate in 2016, so the lower stats aren’t all that surprising. His new manager doesn't appear to be bothered by the drop-off.

"I’m not worried about that part," said Olsen. "Again, one of the best in the final third in getting crosses off and connecting with forwards. That’s one part, and then we have to connect to the goal. Hit the net a little bit."

Joining the team at Talen Energy Stadium allowed Sam to get in with his new teammates right away. Sam ended up being named as a substitute against the Union, but didn’t see the field as United were blown away, 3-0. Still, Sam admitted that it might take some time to get into the good graces with a couple of teammates, considering the history over the past couple of years.

"There might be one of those moments with one of those players. I don’t want to say who yet. It’s over with already. I’m part of the side," said Sam. "It’s amazing how quickly it changes, and my alliance is on this side."

"I’ll probably let the dust settle for a little while, and then maybe reach out to a couple [of teammates]."