WASHINGTON – Through most of the secondary transfer window, most of the chatter surrounding D.C. United centered on who might come in and help the Black-and-Red salvage their season.
That changed a bit this week, when in separate trades, D.C. sent Lamar Neagle to the Seattle Sounders on Monday and Bobby Boswell to Atlanta United on Tuesday. And while more departures may be coming, few would cast a greater shadow than Boswell’s, who had two separate, very productive stints in D.C.
“Bobby is one of my favorite players I’ve ever been around,” said D.C. coach Ben Olsen. “So it was a sad day in that sense. But like always, Bobby handles things like an absolute pro and a man. I think he’s looking forward to a new challenge, and it’s a move for the future for us.”
Boswell played on East Capitol Street from 2005 to 2007, and then again from 2014 until this season. He’s never seen D.C. complete a losing season, and won’t be around in the almost certain event United finish with more losses than wins this year.
But Boswell and Neagle both represent a staple of D.C.’s personnel strategy the past few seasons: to acquire league veterans who were near or just above age 30, no longer fit with their previous clubs, yet had a solid track record.
That worked brilliantly at times, but this season has resulted in a team that often looks overmatched and sits last in the Eastern Conference. And while next year’s move to Audi Field certainly provides motivation to remake the roster, Olsen suggested the club would’ve evolved its approach anyway.
“The league is changing,” Olsen said. “It’s getting bigger, faster, stronger. There’s more quality coming in, there’s more money coming in. And we certainly are in the short-term and the long-term going to start catching up and being a very competitive team in this league.”
That's not to say vets like Boswell and Neagle don’t have any value. After all, they were the ones other teams parted with draft picks to secure, while D.C. presumably clears roster room for new signings like Bolivian teenager Bruno Miranda, who officially joined United last Friday, and reported additions Zoltan Stieber and Russell Canouse.
And although the moves were sudden, most weren't particularly surprised.
“If you don’t do well, and you’re in last place, no one’s really safe,” said defender Steve Birnbaum. “I don’t know if guys I’d say are looking over their shoulders, but obviously we’ve got something to prove. Not just to our coaches but everyone. The league knows what’s going on right now.”
Olsen says whatever business remains in this window will balance short- and long-term priorities.
But he still believes there is time for a late run with a partially remade group.
“We need to get more points to still make our team relevant over the next couple months and see if we can’t make a run at this thing,” he said. “I haven’t ruled us out. Everybody has. And I think the guys are still very committed, as you saw on the weekend, to make this thing interesting.”