It almost makes too much sense. D.C. United need a physical, goal-scoring striker in the worst way and have tons of allocation money and salary space to play with. They're trying to build a team that is first and foremost American and hard-working. And now, SI's Grant Wahl is reporting that the Seattle Sounders - with the help of MLS (first the Dempsey signing, now this? Seattle must have invented not doing any personnel work on your own) - are shopping around Eddie Johnson for a trade within the league. Johnson is angling for a pretty sizable bump in pay after a couple successful seasons in the Northwest and on Juergen Klinsmann's United States National Team. D.C. United are a natural fit as a trade partner for the Sounders: the need is there, the means to make it work are there, and the two teams are in opposite conferences. It almost makes too much sense.
Let's take a step back, though, and establish why it would work. First, the need. In 2013, D.C. United scored 22 goals in MLS play, and no player on the team scored more than three. Eddie Johnson led the Sounders in scoring for the second straight years, tallying nine times in just 20 appearances in the league, plus a goal in CONCACAF play. Those go with his five goals for the USMNT in 15 appearances this year. United needs a guy who can score in MLS - and in Open Cup and CCL, for that matter - and Eddie Johnson is that guy. He is basically what we've all come to think that Ben Olsen wants in a striker: he's fast, physical, good with the ball at his feet and good in the air; he'll work on defense, and he's a finisher. As much as his reputation says otherwise, Johnson is an unselfish player, making the near-post run that allows teammates to make the second and third runs that make team goals happen. (And that first run is something that United's been sorely missing for the most part since Hamdi Salihi stopped starting in mid-2012.)
What about the means to bring him over? Well, we know that United will have a potentially unprecedented amount of allocation money - Wahl is also reporting that the "you suck" and continental allocations United will receive should total $500,000 in 2014. Combined with the newly freed up salary cap space from the ongoing player purge and the
Monopoly allocation money MLS will pay United to compensate the team for the sale of Andy Najar and Alain Rochat, that's a lot of moolah that needs to be spent on improving the roster.
That helps in two ways here. The first is the ability to absorb a salary like EJ's. Johnson, who earned a guaranteed $156,333 last year, is going to push for a Designated Player salary and is likely to end up earning close to the maximum on-budget cap hit ($350,000) whether he gets that DP status or not. United has both the Designated Player slot and the salary cap space to give Johnson what he wants. The other way the allocation money comes into play is in trade talks with the Sounders. The big reason they're offloading the Grown Ass Man is their lack of salary cap space. Allocation money will give them the flexibility they'll need - and demand - to make signings to replace the #7-shaped hole on their team sheet.
Speculation is also that the decision-makers in Seattle want to find an Eastern Conference team to deal with, just so they won't have to go against Johnson three or more times each season. I only mention that because it means that if the GAM isn't in Black-and-Red, it's likely we'll be seeing him multiple times a year. I have no problem saying that scares me, more than just a little bit.
But I don't just want EJ to join Ben Olsen's side so we don't have to play against him. He would be a huge asset to los Capitalinos, providing the target striker that B&RU readers voted as one of United's two greatest needs this offseason and in a mold that we know Ben Olsen will be inclined toward playing. He doesn't use up an international roster spot, and - all things considered - he won't be as expensive as other options to lead the line.
Moreover, he's hungry. He wants to go to Brazil next summer and will work to keep scoring goals and forcing his way onto Klinsy's roster. He wants to get paid, and I think he will reward whichever team pays him the same way Dwayne De Rosario repaid United for being the one team who was willing to pay him (after similar protest/demand goal celebrations, no less). It might not be an MVP season like the one DeRo gave us in 2011, but why shouldn't he score 15+ goals for us next year?
I'll tell you why. Well, no I won't. Because there isn't a reason why the GAM shouldn't score a boatload of goals for somebody in 2014, and there's no reason why that somebody shouldn't be us.
To my mind, the only question that remains is what United should give up to get him. We'll have to send some allocation money Seattle's way; of that I have no doubt. But given the interest other teams will certainly have, Monopoly money might not be enough. How much more D.C. would have to part with is where this deal could break down. If Adrian Hanauer demands a real part of the DCU core - say, Chris Pontius or Nick DeLeon - the deal becomes a lot harder to make work. But what if Seattle demands Dejan Jakovic or one of our reserve 'keepers - pieces with obvious value but that many D.C. fans wouldn't mind parting with for various reasons? Whether the deal will work obviously comes down to details like that.
I still say United should make a go of it, though, and make an inquiry, an offer, a sacrifice - whatever - to get Eddie Johnson into Black-and-Red next year. It just makes too much sense not to, but that won't stop B&RU's own ChestRockwell from telling you why I'm wrong. Go check out that piece, and then let us know in the comments where you come down on the question of whether to EJ or not to EJ.
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