Cruz sent to Union in deal for forward
In the midst of a scoring drought and a run of three losses in four games, D.C. United decided to turn its nearest conference rival -- and the next team on its schedule -- into a trading partner.
Three days before facing Philadelphia at RFK Stadium, United (11-8-3) acquired Colombian forward Lionard Pajoy from the Union (7-12-2) -- along with an international roster spot needed for his place on the roster -- in exchange for wide midfielder Danny Cruz.
The move bolsters the United attack but reflects the poor form of its current group of forwards. While Cruz's playing time had been diminishing, his departure marks the first significant disruption inside a locker room in which chemistry has been much improved this season.
"I didn't expect it, that's for sure," said Cruz, who is childhood friend of United rookie Nick DeLeon. "I think they just feel like they have depth out wide and this was an opportunity to bolster the position that they feel like they need to get better at. I came at the expense of that."
Pajoy, 31, had five goals in 20 appearances for Philadelphia but had recently fallen out favor under coach John Hackworth, who replaced fired Peter Nowak in June. In D.C., Maicon Santos (seven goals) and Hamdi Salihi (five goals) both started the season strong but have struggled over the summer, and recently acquired Long Tan is inexperienced and unrefined in front of the net.
"In the stretch run, you need guys who can score goals," United general manager Dave Kasper said. "It never hurts to have guys come in here and compete to play. ... [Pajoy] is an athletic guy, holds the ball well. He combines with players, and he's a tireless worker."
Cruz, who was acquired in the offseason from Houston for a partial allocation, had one goal and three assists in 16 games (12 starts) but was known for his drive and heart more than his technical ability.
"Danny was kind of near the bottom of our depth chart at wide midfield," Kasper said. "He kept slipping down, and we didn't see that turning any time soon."