Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Armchair Analyst: Three questions following the Lloyd Sam trade

Lloyd Sam - New York Red Bulls - DC United - Taylor Kemp

Sam has been front and center for what is pretty undeniably the best three-year run in RBNY (or MetroStars) history, having been mostly a fulltime starter for two Supporters' Shield wins and two straight appearances in the Eastern Conference championship. Sam had 19 goals and 17 assists from 2013 through 2015 after arriving late in the 2012 season, and was especially good last season when, at age 30, he posted 10 of those goals and seven of those assists.

You could have made a compelling case for him to be in the Best XI. I wouldn't have agreed with you, but I'd have at least listened to your case.

Sam has been less reliable this season, and has slowly lost his hold on the starting spot. Partially this is due to the two-way performance of RBNY Homegrown winger Alex Muyl and partially it's due to the investment RBNY have made in DP winger Gonzalo Veron.

Mostly, though, it's because Sam hasn't performed at quite the same level as the previous three seasons. He's been a step slow getting into the attack, and his finishing has been wayward (just one goal in 16 games).

And that brings us to our first question

Are D.C. getting the 2013-15 version of Sam, or the 2016 version?

Obviously we know what United fans will be hoping for. Just as obvious is the long history between these two teams of players shipped from New York finding their form once they set foot on the field at RFK Stadium. Even when trades work out for the long-term (Dax McCarty for Dwayne De Rosario), there's always some short-term pain for RBNY (DeRo went on to win MVP by tearing the league a new one after the trade).

Sam rediscovering his goalscoring from the wing is essential for D.C. to make the most of this trade, because with their new-look 4-1-4-1 (that I see as more of a 4-3-3, but whatever), they have to distribute the scoring burden. Lamar Neagle and Fabian Espindola have been good, but both are streaky finishers and Espindola, at least, is especially injury prone.

So too are Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko, the other wingers on this roster (both currently out with concussion symptoms). Also worth noting is that of that group, only Neagle is under 30 years old.

Still, this is relevant:

Sometimes a change of scenery works.

Is this the move that Ben Olsen hinted at?

"We've got some money and we're looking to spend it" is what the D.C. head coach told the Washington Post a few days ago. Sam would seem to fit snugly into the salary cap space vacated by Finnish international Markus Halsti, and there's an as-yet undisclosed amount of General Allocation Money headed to New York as well. He didn't cost nothing.

But he may come with some opportunity cost, especially in terms of locking down a target forward. Right now D.C. have veteran Alvaro Saborio— who, it must be said, has been very good this season when available — but Sabo's staring middle age square in the face. Recent signing Alhaji Kamara has shown potential as a poacher in his brief run so far, but he brings nothing close to Sabo's hold-up play as a No. 9. And generally speaking, if you don't have that hold-up play you're probably not going to have a super-functional 4-3-3/4-1-4-1 no matter how talented your wingers are.

This is one of my favorite goals of the season:

If you can't replicate that — not necessarily the goal, but the threat of that play happening — teams can defend wider and choke off the supply to the wingers, and your offensive output tanks.

Just what are RBNY planning?

Sam's clearly on the back nine of his career, but you don't just eliminate a player like that from your rotation without something big on the horizon. The other shoe is definitely going to drop, and my guess is it will be a more significant move than simply getting Muyl more PT, or hoping that Veron (or Shaun Wright-Phillips) stays healthy.

New York have one DP slot open, the ability to pay one of those down to make it two, and have been making noise about a potential "big addition." A younger, goal-scoring winger — basically what Veron was supposed to be — makes sense if that's the plan, especially in the wake of this summer's Copa America. Ecuador's Jefferson Montero and Peru's Edison Flores could both be had for the right price, and there are other recognizable and productive players out there as well.

Finding the right one is now the job for Ali Curtis, Jesse Marsch & Co. And in the long run if whoever they get is as successful with the team as Sam's been, they'll have done a good job of filling that hole.