Following reports from Taylor Twellman and the Columbus Dispatch’s Andrew Erickson, D.C. United has announced that they’ve traded forward Patrick Mullins to Columbus Crew SC. In exchange, Columbus has sent United $150,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). The move leaves United with three senior roster spots open and bolsters their ability to do something about it in what figures to be a busy summer transfer window.
Mullins, 26, has had a very up-and-down time with United. Acquired in the middle of 2016 to boost one of MLS’s worst offenses at the time, Mullins was a key part of arguably the best run of form D.C. has had in this decade. In 14 appearances, Mullins posted 8 goals and 2 assists with his new club, who scored 33 goals in the 15 games they played from when the former Maryland star arrived via a trade with NYCFC.
2017 was a different story. After signing a new deal and getting a deserved raise, preseason fitness concerns gave way to a pair of early-season injuries, both of which kept Mullins out for extended periods. As United’s season became more and more of a debacle, their projected starter had made just 8 appearances (5 starts) by the end of July, and had not registered a goal or assist. Clearly showing a lack of confidence and starting up top for a struggling team, Mullins didn’t get a goal until United’s 30th game of the season, when he broke out by scoring four goals against the San Jose Earthquakes.
That outburst, plus one more in the following match against the New York Red Bulls, saw him finish the season as United’s joint-top scorer, but no one was under any illusions. The Black-and-Red traded for Darren Mattocks in the offseason, and the Jamaican took over as the starting center forward almost immediately in the preseason. With Mattocks in the form of his life, Mullins has played just 225 minutes in 2018, including only 2 starts. His only goal or assist came as a substitute in last month’s 4-4 draw with Toronto FC, as he set up Yamil Asad’s late tap-in.
While acquiring $150,000 in TAM for a player who might not be making the 18 these days is certainly decent business, the bigger factor may be freeing up salary budget space. The MLS Players Union lists Mullins’ salary at $249,996. For a team likely shopping for improvements in the back, that’s more or less enough space in the budget to sign a starter to improve on the back four.