Just months after enduring one of the worst defensive seasons in MLS history, D.C. United took another major step in an ambitious overhaul of their backline on Tuesday, sending Homegrown product Ethan White to the Philadelphia Union in exchange for center back Jeff Parke.
Parke – along with fellow newcomers Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell – will add some much needed stability and experience to United's defensive corps, something D.C. general manager Dave Kasper was quick to point out when reached for comment shortly after the trade.
"Jeff is a guy that we’ve tried to trade for multiple times," Kasper told MLSsoccer.com by phone. "He’s an everyday, starting center back. For us, in the offseason, we've said it was important to get our backline right – we realized what we needed was to get a starting-caliber center back to start off the season, and that’s what we see in Jeff."
The trade caught observers of both clubs by surprise. White strung together a number of solid performances toward the end of United's 2013 campaign and seemed to wrap his hands around a starting spot before year's end, and the Maryland product was widely expected to partner with Boswell in central defense in the campaign ahead.
But that responsibility will now likely fall to Parke, who Kasper seems to consider a better fit.
"I think Ethan has made progress, he’s knocking on the door to be a starter," Kasper said. "He’ll have a better opportunity [in Philadelphia]; I think they might feel he’s a better fit for their system. We just thought with our group, moving into the season, we needed to get another seasoned veteran."
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Just as intriguing as the players involved in the trade is the swap in allocation order that was also part of the deal. Already having secured the services of US international Eddie Johnson, many thought United might make a push for another big name – perhaps former Chicago Fire winger Marco Pappa or Maurice Edu, both of whom are rumored to be considering MLS returns. Kasper was quick to dismiss that idea, however.
"There’s couple of players who the league is in discussion with to return to MLS. It would have been very hard for us to pull of any of those deals from a salary cap standpoint," he said. "Both players will be hitting big numbers, and we’re not in a position, with how we’ve built our roster in the offseason, to accommodate those big salaries."