August 7, 2020

D.C. United and Philadelphia Union swap picks; United select Steve Birnbaum at No. 2 in MLS SuperDraft

Roundly questioned and a bit maligned for a trade earlier this week with Philadelphia that saw D.C. United give up the top spot in Major League Soccer’s allocation order and young defender Ethan White, United dealt with the Union again on Thursday.

This time, United and the Union, slated to pick first and second, respectively, in the draft, swapped picks. United got the player it probably wanted all along in University of California central defender Steve Birnbaum. The Union took goalkeeper Andre Blake, which makes the reasoning for swapping picks with United and sending D.C. allocation money (according to the club) rather strange, since there was next to no chance United were going to select any goalkeeper with the first pick in this draft.

Barring any additional trades, Birnbaum will be United’s lone selection in this draft. But everything points to him being worthy of his draft spot. Birnbaum is 6-foot-2 and last fall was a 5th-year senior at Cal, where he made a total of 74 appearances (63 starts). Already an All-Pac-12 defender entering his senior year, Birnbaum added offense to his game in a big way in his final season, scoring 10 goals. Entering his senior year, Birnbaum had a total of two goals.

Birnbaum’s senior season led to First-Team All-American honors and he was a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy. As a team, Cal went 14-5-2 in 2013, losing to Maryland in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. Earlier in the season, the Golden Bears had beaten the Terps, in part thanks to Birnbaum’s headed goal from a corner kick (video here).

His first job with United, however, won’t be scoring goals, but helping to shore up a defense that was one of MLS’ worst last season – one that saw the club finish a horrid 3-24-7 (16 points). If he’s kept in the middle, he’ll fight for time along with two other offseason veteran acquisitions, Bobby Boswell (picked from Houston in the Re-Entry Draft) and Jeff Parke (acquired in the aforementioned trade with Philadelphia).

But finding a place for Birnbaum to play is the least of United’s concerns. Having another talented defender available for selection will be welcome news for head coach Ben Olsen, and Birnbaum is another youthful player on a roster that had just lost one with the White trade. Birnbaum turns 23 on January 23.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Follow him on Twitter @writered21 and add him to your network on Google.

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, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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