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D.C. United signs former Atlanta United defender/midfielder Chris McCann

The Irish defender/midfielder will add depth on the left side and centrally

With an eye on depth, D.C. United claimed Irish defender/midfielder Chris McCann off waivers this evening. McCann, 31, was waived by Atlanta United three days ago, with salary concerns and a glut at left back both being cited as explanations. The news was first broken by the Washington Post’s Steve Goff, with D.C. confirming the acquisition shortly thereafter.

As a U.S. green card holder, McCann will count as a domestic player for United. He’ll join the club in Clearwater, FL tomorrow as their preseason workouts continue.

McCann broke through as a professional with Burnley FC, playing in the English Championship at first, going up with them when they gained promotion to the Premier League in 2009 and then staying when they dropped back down after one season. During his time with Burnley, McCann made 238 appearances before moving to Wigan Athletic in 2013. At Wigan, McCann experienced his first drop below the championship, as the Latics were relegated down to League One for a season. McCann stayed aboard, helping Wigan get promoted right back up at the end of the 2015-2016 season before signing with Atlanta ahead of their expansion season.

That signing proved a bit controversial, as McCann’s salary ($588,000 per MLS Players Association numbers) hampered the Five Stripes before they’d ever really began assembling their ambitious roster. McCann spent a year on loan with Coventry City before Atlanta entered MLS in 2017, and made 45 regular season appearances (30 starts) over the course of two seasons in Georgia despite not necessarily being a textbook fit in Tata Martino’s style of play. McCann was a stoppage-time substitute as Atlanta won the 2018 MLS Cup.

Per Goff’s further reporting on the move, United won’t have to worry about that potentially huge blow to their budget. McCann will come to the District on a deal that, for D.C.’s budget, will only count as a senior roster minimum ($70,250) charge. As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson, the waiver claim here may be a major factor for McCann accepting the move; essentially, D.C. adding him via the waiver list and putting up that low salary contribution means Atlanta must either be paying off the remaining half-a-million bucks, or they’ve arranged some kind of contract buyout.

We reached out to Dirty South Soccer’s Rob Usry for more on what McCann brings to the table:

There are two things that most Atlanta United fans will tell you about Chris McCann. He’s a solid overall player who can give a side versatility and eat minutes during a long season. He was also a terrible signing for the club from a financial standpoint.

He’s a good squad player in MLS that was paid way too much way too early in the roster building process ahead of the club’s inaugural season. Capable of playing left back and central midfield, it became obvious that he was more more useful as the former.

He’s a reliable defender and can put in great service from the left side from time to time. He’s good in the air and capable of getting on the end of a set piece or two. It was centrally where McCann’s deficiencies appeared. His touch is not the best and lets him down more than a little.

Overall, for what D.C. are looking for, McCann is a solid addition to the squad as a role player. If he hadn’t eaten up a large chunk of salary cap in Atlanta, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t have wanted to keep him.

McCann’s role with United will probably be to serve as a defensive utility player. As Rob notes, he spent plenty of time out on left as a fullback or wingback under Martino. While United won’t often need a starter at defensive midfield due to the presence of Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, and Chris Durkin, that trio could all receive international call-ups during the course of the season. At 6’1”, he can also play as a center back, which would leave United with McCann, Durkin, and four other more natural options there.