Coming into the offseason, most D.C. United fans were concerned with the club’s ability to secure a permanent transfer for Luciano Acosta. However, signing a long-term contract with USMNT defender Steve Birnbaum - the subject of repeated European interest in the past few months - was not far behind. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, United just crossed a huge item off their to-do list by signing the 25 year old California native to a new deal.
Locking things down with Birnbaum is a huge move for United. The Black-and-Red had said they were interested in signing Birnbaum to a new contract, while rumors linking him to a move to Europe - mostly Israel, but occasionally Germany or the Netherlands - cropping up for much of the 2016 season. Now a regular USMNT call-up and widely seen to be one of MLS’s top center backs, Birnbaum held a lot of cards coming into this offseason.
Birnbaum is coming off of his most active season with United. He appeared in 26 matches - all starts - while managing 3 goals and 2 assists. Birnbaum’s ability to create chaos on set pieces is a huge asset for the Black-and-Red, but it’s his combination of anticipation, speed, and aerial prowess at the back that makes him one of the club’s most important players. Signing him to a four-year deal would keep Birnbaum playing for DCU through his peak years. That, like the move to sign Acosta, counts as a signal to fans that the team is interested in doing more than simply treading water until the Buzzard Point stadium opens.