WASHINGTON — D.C. United’s decision to trade for center back Brandon McDonald in June certainly came with an element of risk to it, considering he was on the brink of a potential trip out of MLS entirely.
With his contract up at the end of the year, McDonald could have walked away in December for nothing to try his luck overseas, and he’d spoken openly about his aspirations of playing in Europe.
But DC took the risk that they can keep McDonald happy, and this week signed him to a multi-year contract that will keep him with the club for the foreseeable future
“When you’re trading for a guy who’s out of contract and you’re not sure if he’s going to stay, there’s a pretty significant risk involved,” D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper told MLSsoccer.com. “We felt we needed a guy — he was available, a little bit out of favor [in San Jose], they had a number of center backs — we felt it was a good time to get him.”
By re-signing McDonald, United took another step towards setting up a foundation at the back, as they’ll have a chance to establish something back with the two center-back positions with McDonald and Dejan Jakovic.
Since coming to the team at the end of June, McDonald has fit in well with his new team, starting all nine games since arrival. And while there was talk he might seek out opportunities abroad when his contract ran out, the two sides decided it was best for him to sign a new deal.
“He has ambitions to play in Europe — but I don’t think he has ambitions to play in Scandinavia, for example,” Kasper said. “I think he’s thinking bigger than that. We all came to the conclusion that this was the best environment for him to stay in right now.”
Since McDonald joined the starting lineup, United have conceded only eight goals in nine games, thanks to the leadership and experience the 25-year-old brought to the squad.
“He’s a strong, physical guy, very good athletic qualities,” Kasper said. “Good organizer, which was very important for our young group. He’s a guy that’s got a very good work ethic.”
Even more important for head coach Ben Olsen and the rest of the team, it provides the chance for McDonald to continue to build a relationship with Jakovic and continue to shore up things in defense.
“It’s good to get that behind us and now we can focus on a back line that we can keep together,” Olsen said. “I think that’s very important in this league and look at teams who’ve had success, it’s important to particularly have your two center backs stick around and really get a good rapport with each other.”
A player who also carries US national team aspirations, McDonald is also pleased with the stature playing for a team like United will provide as he tries to catch the eye of Jurgen Klinsmann.
“I think DC’s a big market, and that helps me,” McDonald said. “I’ve got to do my part on the field and I think if I do my part on the field with a good coaching staff here … it should fall into place.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.