It may have involved a circuitous route, but Chris Durkin is back with D.C. United. The club traded $325,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM), split between $200,000 of 2022’s allotment and $125,000 in 2023, to the Houston Dynamo, who acquired Durkin via the MLS Allocation mechanism after he departed Belgian club Sint-Truiden. Durkin’s deal with the Black-and-Red will be the club’s first use of the MLS U22 Initiative, and runs through 2024 (with an option year in 2025).
“We are thrilled to welcome Chris back to the District after he started his professional career with us back in 2016,” said United President of Soccer Operations Dave Kasper in a team press release confirming the deal. “He has picked up valuable experience in Belgium’s top division where he has matured and improved as a player. We believe that Chris will be a great addition to our roster and his skillset will adapt well into Hernán’s system of play. He has a great range of passing, covers a ton of ground, and has physicality on both sides of the ball. Chris rejoining the club will strengthen our roster as we push to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs in 2022.”
“[Durkin’s] vision, athleticism, and passing ability will be a huge asset for us on the field and will complement the players we currently have in the midfield,” said United GM Lucy Rushton in the same release. “Chris has also shown his versatility throughout his career which will give Hernán flexibility to adapt our formation and shape during the season. He understands the club and is returning home after an impressive three seasons in one of the top European leagues. This is a great moment for him and the club and we’re looking forward to welcoming him back to the District.”
The Washington Post’s Steven Goff first reported that United was pushing to re-acquire Durkin, but the ball only really got rolling on Wednesday. Goff reported that Durkin would go through the MLS allocation process, while Queen City Press’ Laurel Pfahler first reported that FC Cincinnati, one of several parties rumored to have interest in Durkin, passed on picking Durkin with the #1 spot in the allocation order, and that Houston selected him using the #2 position. MLSsoccer.com’s Tom Bogert then reported that United would trade some GAM for Durkin’s MLS rights, and that the transfer fee to bring Durkin back to MLS would be $700,000.
Notably, the initial move that sent Durkin to STVV was a loan followed by a transfer that, combined, saw United bring in roughly double the sum it required to bring him back to the District.
Durkin’s time in Belgium was productive, as he was a regular for Sint-Truiden throughout his three seasons with De Kanaries. After arriving on a one-season loan in 2019, Durkin amassed 72 appearances in all competitions, including 49 starts. He appeared in all but four of STVV’s league matches up to this point in the season, helping them to the brink of qualifying for the Jupiler Pro League’s Europa League playoffs. With two games left to play, STVV are only out of a playoff place on goal difference.
The Hampton, VA native had previously made 36 appearances with United, debuting in a 2016 Open Cup match against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. The Black-and-Red have been thin in central midfield this season, with a recent combination of Moses Nyeman’s suspension and Russell Canouse’s injury leaving Hernán Losada to start his only two natural holding midfielders in Drew Skundrich and Sofiane Djeffal against Chicago. United’s positional crunch was such that defender Brendan Hines-Ike spent some late minutes in the midfield at Cincinnati, while Andy Najar also reportedly played there in at least one preseason game.