HANOVER, N.J. – During his five years with the New York Red Bulls, Lloyd Sam lifted the Supporters' Shield twice and became one of the most dangerous wide players in MLS.
But as the Red Bulls look ahead to future moves during the current summer transfer window, the club made the difficult decision on Thursday to trade the 31-year-old to rivals D.C. United for allocation money.
“It was done with the future in mind, but also with the present,” head coach Jesse Marsch said on Friday. “It wasn’t done specifically for a player move, right now. Let me make that clear. There’s some potential for some player moves in this transfer window. This was done on a lot of different levels to strengthen our club. The allocation helps with flexibility for the roster, it helps for flexibility for future moves. We also think there’s potential for guys that are here to step up and fill the void in a major way.”
This season Sam made 16 appearances and 13 starts, scoring a goal with four assists. It was a decline in production from the past three seasons, during which he was among the best attacking players in the league. Sam, capped by Ghana last year, propelled the team to the 2013 Supporters’ Shield and was a fixture on the side that won the same 2015 regular-season title.
But the Red Bulls have found scoring goals and creating chances a bit more difficult this season, and have hinted at additions in the summer transfer window to bolster their attack. A move seems likely at forward, with Marsch saying last week that the club would like to find some help for Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. And with Sam gone, the Red Bulls could possibly use a wide player in their midfield.
Marsch said he was looking for Gonzalo Veron, Shaun Wright-Phillips and academy products Alex Muyl and Derrick Etienne to step up in Sam’s place. Veron, a Designated Player, has played on both wings as well as up top for the Red Bulls this season.
Sam was immensely popular in the locker room as well as with the fanbase. He was one of just a handful of players still on the roster who remained from the team put together by former head coach Hans Backe. As such, his departure wasn’t one the club took lightly.
“On a personal level, I love my relationship with Lloyd. I think he’s a great guy, he’s a big personality around here, a big presence in the locker room,” Marsch said. "He was a member of our leadership council. In so many ways, I really enjoyed getting to know Lloyd and certainly coaching.
“The decision to move him was a very, very difficult one and one that wasn’t taken lightly and one that’s been thought about over time. But it was one we think we need to make as an organization to move forward and get better. Moving him to D.C. was not our preference. But given the different scenarios, what D.C. offered was clear and away the best package. Even that being said, it was a hard thing to pull the trigger because the last thing you want to do is give one of your good players to one of your biggest rivals.”