In the midst of a drought in front of the net (two goals in the last four matches) and in the standings (1-3 in the last four), D.C. United has traded midfielder Danny Cruz to the Philadelphia Union in exchange for Colombian forward Lionard Pajoy and the international roster spot needed for him on the roster.
The move bolsters D.C.’s attack with a forward who’d grown out of favor despite his team-leading five goals for the Union. But it also could present a risk to the delicate chemistry inside the United locker room.
D.C. and Philadelphia meet at RFK Stadium on Sunday.
Cruz, who was acquired in the offseason from Houston for a partial allocation, had one goal and three assists in 16 games (12 starts). He was also known for his drive and heart more than his technical ability, and his playing time was beginning to wane thanks to Chris Pontius, who can play midfield or forward, potential rookie of the year candidate Nick DeLeon, and the return of Andy Najar from international duty.
“I didn’t expect it, that’s for sure,” Cruz said. “I think they just feel like they have depth out wide, and this was an opportunity to bolster the position that they feel like need to get better at. I came at the expense of that.”
Cruz and DeLeon’s friendship goes back to high school in Arizona, and DeLeon had called Cruz his mentor upon their reunion in Washington.
Asked if he’ll play for the Union on Sunday, Cruz said, “No comment. We’ll just leave it at that.”
The arrival of Pajoy, 31 years old and in his first MLS season, also signals United’s frustration with its current group of attackers outside of Pontius. Long Tan has potential but is still young and unrefined. He has started the last two matches over Maicon Santos (seven goals) and Hamdi Salihi (five goals), both of whom had produced earlier in the year.
According to MLS Players Union figures, Pajoy’s base salary is $180,000. Cruz was earning $100,000.
“It was not an easy decision to trade Danny. He’s been a terrific player on and off the field this season,” D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper said in a statement. “We felt that we needed to add another piece up top and the opportunity to get Lionard Pajoy was one that we could not pass up. We’re excited to integrate him into our side immediately.”