D.C. United shored up their young defensive group with a huge veteran acquisition on Tuesday, landing right back Robbie Russell via trade with Real Salt Lake.
Russell, 32, spent the last four seasons as a valuable member of the vaunted RSL defense, starting at least 18 games each of the past three seasons. He appeared in 26 games and started 22 of those in 2011, but was left unprotected by the club during last week’s Expansion Draft and his spot in the lineup will likely be replaced by promising fullback Tony Beltran.
"Much love to all the DC fans for the great welcome!! Can't wait to play for you guys!!" Russell tweeted on Tuesday. "Thank you to all the RSL fans for the great goodbye tweets. I'm gonna miss you guys."
D.C. United sent a third-round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft to RSL in the deal. If there is no third round in that year’s draft, the pick will become the first pick of the Supplemental Draft.
“We are pleased to be adding a quality veteran defender in Robbie Russell,” D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper said in a statement. “He has championship level experience in our League, and he will be a big addition to our squad moving into the 2012 season. We look forward to Robbie’s contributions on and off the field.”
Russell joined RSL after he spent seven years in Scandanavia, most notably appearing in 116 games for Songdal of the Norwegian Premier League. He eventually joined up with Rosenborg in 2004 and emerged as a starter there, and even started in two matches during the UEFA Champions League.
He’s been a steady though underrated presence on the RSL back line since 2008, and he established himself as a go-to starter during the team’s run to its first-ever league title in 2009. In fact, it was Russell who calmly buried the decisive kick in the shootout of that year’s MLS Cup against the LA Galaxy in Seattle, setting off a memorable celebration that is still the signature moment of the franchise.
Russell joins a D.C. United defense in need of some help after allowing 52 goals in 2011, third worst among Eastern Conference teams. The defensive group was anchored by rising star Perry Kitchen and established Canadian pro Dejan Jakovic, but Jakovic missed significant time due to injury last season and Kitchen is just 19 years old and could be set for a permanent move to holding midfield.
United will also lean on midseason pickup Brandon McDonald on the back line, as well as right back Chris Korb (12 starts in his rookie season) and young left back Daniel Woolard, who started a career-high 26 games last year.
D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who turned 21 last week, started 28 games in net last season in net.