Interstate 95 foes D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union made a swap Thursday just three days before their Eastern Conference showdown at RFK Stadium, with D.C. sending young midfielder Danny Cruz north for Colombian forward Lionard Pajoy.
The two teams will meet on Sunday in Washington (5 pm ET, NBC Sports Netowrk), with D.C. currently sitting in the fifth and final spot in the playoff standings and the Union looking to climb back into the postseason picture.
The trade ends an unexpectedly short stay in Philadelphia for Pajoy (above), who joined the club in February after a career year with Colombian side Itagüí Ditaires. His success in the Colombian first division, however, never quite translated to MLS, and he finishes his career with the Union with five goals and two assists in 20 appearances.
Pajoy, 31, has not played a full 90-minute shift for the Union since July 8 and has started three of the team’s last seven games after he started each of the club’s first 11 games this season. He came off the bench and logged 29 minutes during the Union’s last time out, a 3-1 loss at PPL Park last weekend that marked their third loss in four games.
The Union have experimented heavily with their front line in recent weeks, relying mostly on Jack McInerney but swapping in Pajoy and rookies Antoine Hoppenot and Chandler Hoffman to pair with the young striker.
Cruz (right) joins his third team inside a year with the deal, after signing with D.C. United before the 2012 season. He scored a goal and added three assists in 16 games this year in Washington, his fourth season in the league and first after three years spent with the Houston Dynamo.
He has started just three of the team’s past 10 games while battling for minutes in a crowded D.C. midfield that has featured rookie Nick DeLeon, Branko Boskovic, reigning league MVP Dwayne De Rosario and Honduran Olympian Andy Najar.