Examining Thursday’s Danny Cruz-Lionard Pajoy trade

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D.C. United’s trade Thursday has rang alarm bells around the RFK fan base, and has those fans picking over the old scabs of too many personnel moves that just didn’t pan out.

I’m not sure it’s all that bad, but I don’t see a whole bunch of sense in the move, either. And there’s a chance it could tumble into something that fans really can feel badly about.

The straight news is this: D.C. United traded young midfielder Danny Cruz on Thursday to Philadelphia for … well, for not much. Going D.C. United’s way is striker Lionard Pajoy (pictured).

In all honesty, when I first heard of this trade, I assumed it was all about getting the international slot that also arrived  in the swap with Philadelphia. But when I checked with United officials, I learned that United needed the international slot so they could add Pajoy.

And my head-scratching commenced.

Cruz, 22, an industrious midfielder whose game surely remains on the rise, gets into a good situation at PPL Park. He seemed to be well regarded around RFK, but a glut of midfield depth meant that some deserving youngster would be left behind for the MLS stretch run.

At first glance, D.C. United doesn’t seem to need another striker, not with four around RFK who can provide quality minutes at the two forward spots. Pajoy may work into the rotation ahead of Maicon Santos, but he’s not moving Dwayne De Rosario or Chris Pontius out of the way. (Those two can play in the midfield, too, of course.) Nor does Pajoy seem likely to displace DP Hamdi Salihi in the order. And there’s Long Tan somewhere in the order, too.

So why Pajoy? Good question.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be fair to call Pajoy a “bust” at Philly, but he was certainly wandering around in that neighborhood.  A guy who was supposed to be the primary strike threat around PPL Park (on the books for almost $200,000 this year) must do better than five goals and two assists over two-thirds of the season. He was not inventive enough early, and then when he did find a little creative footing the finishing simply wasn’t there.  (Just 11 shots on goal for Philly in 20 games? Not. Good. Enough.)

(MORE: Danny Cruz and Philadelphia looks like a good fit)

Yes, United has struggled to score goals lately. But is that on the forwards? Or is it about the inability to settle on roles for Pontius and De Rosario, and about the inability to get the most from pricey midfielder Branko Boskovic?

Two more points to consider here:

D.C. desperately needs helps along the back line, where there’s a lot of “average” and not a bit of “outstanding.” That’s the biggest reason this trade makes little sense. United needs a game-changer along the back line, not another average forward to add into the pile.

And if young Honduran midfielder Andy Najar finds his way over to Europe in the offseason, manager Ben Olsen could find himself seriously missing Cruz.