September 16, 2019

D.C. United ANALYSIS: Club trades Ethan White to Philadelphia in odd deal

D.C. United today announced it had traded defender Ethan White and the top spot in Major League Soccer’s allocation order to the Philadelphia Union for veteran defender Jeff Parke and Philly’s sixth position in the allocation order.

White appeared in 14 regular-season matches for United last season, and 38 overall in three years with the club. He turned 23 on New Year’s Day and joined United after being part of the club’s U-18 Academy team and playing two seasons at the University of Maryland. White was one of several homegrown players on the D.C. roster.

In coming to United, Parke joins his fourth MLS club, after spending time with New York (both as a MetroStar and Red Bull), Seattle, and Philadelphia. Parke is no offensive threat but does add more of a veteran presence to United’s back line, some of which was lost with the recent transfer of Dejan Jakovic to Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse.

But beyond the players, the curious part of this trade is United dealing the top allocation pick away. D.C. “earned” that spot by having the worst season in its history, going 3-24-7 in 2013 and finishing dead last in MLS by a wide margin. Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannewald wrote today that Philadelphia has interest in U.S. National Team midfielder Maurice Edu, who may join MLS from Stoke City in England. Their need for the top allocation spot in that case is pretty clear.

Edu is 27 and a player most MLS teams would crave having. Having the top allocation pick then put United in a position of power to get as much as they could from teams they knew needed it. And while D.C. perhaps didn’t need or want Edu (D.C. does have Perry Kitchen in place to play that position for perhaps the next decade), the allocation pick also shouldn’t be parted with lightly.

Parke and Bobby Boswell, reacquired from Houston in the Re-Entry Draft this winter, give United a veteran defensive presence. Of Parke, D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper was quote in the team release, “Jeff has over 200 starts in MLS, and at 31, has many years to contribute to our team at a high level.”

Translated, Parke is entering what will be his 10th MLS season (not counting 2009, which he spent with Vancouver, which was then a USL first-division club). That’s a lot of miles for a defender. Parke has made 88 starts the past three seasons (two for Seattle, one for Philadelphia) and he has logged more than 20,000 minutes in MLS and started in 234 of his 241 appearances.

If United were on the verge of an MLS Cup run, this move might make a lot of sense, especially as a mid-season way to shore up the defense. But Parke brings little championship pedigree. He was a member of two U.S. Open Cup winning teams in Seattle (2010, 2011), but the only team for which he played that reached the MLS Cup final was New York in 2008. The Red Bulls lost that game to Columbus, 3-1, and Parke didn’t play.

United, of course, hasn’t been to or won the MLS Cup final since 2004. And while last year’s Open Cup triumph put a 13th piece of silverware in the trophy case, another pathetic league campaign isn’t acceptable.

D.C. currently has seven defenders on the roster – Parke, Boswell, new signing Nana Attakora (24), Sean Franklin (picked from Los Angeles in the Re-Entry Draft), Taylor Kemp, Chris Korb, and Jalen Robinson (homegrown signing, 19). Conor Shanosky (22) is listed as a midfielder but could still be groomed as a defender. United could also add one more in this week’s MLS SuperDraft, where D.C. has the top pick (assuming United doesn’t trade that, too). California’s Steve Birnbaum, a 6-foot-2 central defender, would be a nice pick up for United.

So in short, United can add a young player in the draft, and they traded a homegrown defender for an older one. To go with that, United gave up having the first option on quality players likely in their prime who want to be part of MLS – the kind that most clubs build winning teams around.

For a club that was so bad much of last season and one that seemed to take rightful pride in its excellent group of homegrown players, this type of trade is a head scratcher. Maybe there’s a vibrant optimism at the club that the season wasn’t really that bad. Or maybe because of the Open Cup win, there’s a belief that United isn’t that far off. Vast improvements and declines aren’t unheard of in MLS (just look at United 2012 vs. United 2013).

But even just trading White for Parke straight up would have been questionable, given the age difference. Adding the top allocation spot to the deal and moving back to sixth, while dealing with a conference rival, is perplexing to say the least. Even if United aren’t interested in Edu, or if they haven’t yet identified a player for whom they’d use the allocation spot, there’s little reason to sacrifice that position in order to help Philadelphia. What the Union want should have been leverage for United, not merely the reason for making a deal.

The return yielded by giving up United’s top bargaining chip simply isn’t enough.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

Comments

  1. Homero-che says:

    A head scratcher indeed. Nice piece that gives more truth to the reality of this trade. Awful for United and great for Philly. Makes one wonder if the Philly GM has incriminating photos of DK. Regardless, this should be the move that shows, clear as day, the capacity of our GM.

    Perhaps more telling and significant is how those in charge, i.e. Jason Levien, etc, have yet to realize the stupidity of our GM. It is very concerning to say the least.

  2. Ed Morgans says:

    Thanks for checking in and reading. My biggest issue with this trade really isn’t even Parke for White. Parke has shown he can stay healthy in recent years, and perhaps paired with Boswell, there might be something there.

    But United really didn’t get any kind of value back for the top allocation spot. Even if, as Kasper has said in other venues today, United couldn’t afford players in the current crop of allocations, maybe in the summer they could. Or, maybe in the summer, another team trying to contend that needs one of those type of players will be willing to give up young players + draft picks for the top allocation spot.

    Trading that spot and a young player for a 30+ defender and a lower allocation spot is just mind-boggling.

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