Family matters as veteran Russell lands in DC

WASHINGTON – Last week’s deal that brought defender Robbie Russell to D.C. United not only provided an experienced, veteran player to the club, but it also brought of personal relief for the on-the-move defender.

With his wife working full time for a law firm here in the nation's capital over the past year while Russell was playing for Real Salt Lake, they spent many more days apart than married couples are accustomed to.

So with RSL facing a squeeze in the salary cap this offseason and looking to do right by a player who’d been a big part of their success, Russell was sent to D.C. in exchange for a 2013 draft pick last week.

“Even now that it has happened, I know my wife still looks over on the couch and is kind of like, ‘You’re here, that’s weird,’" he said. "I think once I’m here for a couple weeks, it’ll settle in that I finally made the move, it finally happened. There’s a lot of excitement around it and I’m happy to be around my family again.”

On the field, the implications for D.C. are crucial, as Russell provides a veteran presence at the back – a point sorely lacking at times this past year. It also opens the door for Perry Kitchen to shift from the right back spot into the midfield, where he’ll likely compete for a role as the starting defensive midfielder in 2012.

“We needed to find some experience back there in our back line and a guy we can know who can get the job done,” United GM Dave Kasper told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re getting a guy who’s got great experience in Europe, great experience in our league.”

Russell, who took a tour of his new digs at RFK Stadium last week, recalled a number of previous visits where he fielded an unusually high number of ticket requests for friends and family in the area.

“The way the ambiance of the stadium is, and the way the fans are really close to the pitch on the one side, definitely being a defender that was on the side a lot, I remember some pretty sharp comments coming from the fans,” he said with a smile. “It was a good atmosphere, and I’m really interested to see what it’ll like be on the other side of that experience.”

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com