D.C. United set to give up first pick in allocation for Philadelphia’s Jeff Parke? Yikes.

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So much for speculating how D.C. United would look with Marco Pappa. Or Maurice Edu, for that matter, with the Stoke City man’s return to Major League Soccer discussed more-and-more by the day. Instead, D.C. United’s makeover has added another veteran in central defense, reportedly trading the first pick in MLS’s allocation order along with Ethan White to Philadelphia for Jeff Parke and the sixth pick in allocation.

If you’re looking at this, asking yourself if you’d trade Pappa or Edu for Parke, and are left wondering if there’s something more to this deal, you’re not alone. Parke, who was traded from Seattle to Philadelphia last season, is a decent-to-above average center back who makes decent-to-above average money ($205,000 in 2013). Together with the recently acquired Bobby Boswell, United have the makings of a solid if unspectacular pair. But to give up the chance at Pappa or Edu to make it happen? It seems like something else is up.

That’s not the only wrinkle to this deal. Part of the charm of the Union acquiring Parke last season was the Drexel graduate’s move closer to home. Now, after one year in Philadelphia, the 31-year-old has asked out, requesting the trade as a result of a “personal matter” (as relayed by our friends at CSN Philly). Twelve months after Seattle made the tough decision to cut costs by trading Parke, the former Red Bull is on the move again, set to join his third team in as many seasons.

source: Getty Images
Philadelphia is reportedly targeting Stoke City’s Maurice Edu with the allocation order slot acquired from D.C. United. (Source: Getty Images.)

There are a whole bunch of questions to go around about this one, not the least of which involves D.C.’s motivations. On the surface, it seems Dave Kaspar and Ben Olsen have decided an upgrade in defense is more valuable than adding Edu or Pappa, a decision that’s not difficult to understand. Olsen may see Perry Kitchen as his Maurice Edu while looking at a team that already has Davy Arnaud and Nick DeLeon wide in midfield. Where others might see places to upgrade, Kaspar and Olsen may see reasons to focus resources elsewhere. Finding a partner for Bobby Boswell may have been priority number one.

With that in mind, the bigger questions may rest with Philadelphia. Over at CSN Philly, the big focus is on Maurice Edu, a player that could provide an upgrade to Brian Carroll or Keon Daniel in midfield. While it would be difficult for the Union to turn their back on that upgrade (and a U.S. international) to take Pappa, the team is also in desperate need of new ways to score goals. When Jack McInerney cooled off after his spring explosion, the team was exposed as one-dimensional – overly reliant on playing through Conor Casey. Pappa could solve that. (He could also be the only option, if Edu doesn’t become available.)

On a team that competed for the playoffs last year, wide midfield is one of many holes, part of the reason why this deal looks bad for both sides. Philadelphia may be able to address one of their problems with Edu or Pappa, but in giving up Parke, they’ve created another. Perhaps Ethan White will make a smooth transition to Philadelphia, but the former Maryland Terrapin had yet to show enough at RFK to keep him in red and black. He may just add to the pile of young talent Philadelphia’s waiting to fully mature.

For D.C., they plug a hole, but to do so they’ve given up a prime asset. In return, they get a player who turns 32 in March – somebody who’s decent but no All-Star. Turning their back on a chance to get a more talented player, D.C. United appears to be placing a too much emphasis on 2014, perhaps overlooking the lengths they must travel to overcome their disastrous 2013.