As we've signed Brandon McDonald, a central defender from D.C. United, I asked Adam Taylor, managing editor over at Black and Red United, to offer a bit of perspective on the move from their end. McDonald suffered from a run of poor form in 2013 alongside D.C. — they went on an abysmal 13-match winless run and he may have lost some confidence. Read on for Adam's well-considered perspective.
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If you'd told me a year ago - hell, four months ago - that Brandon McDonald would be packing his bags for Utah in exchange for a "third round" (read: Supplemental) 2014 draft pick and a conditional 2015 draft pick, I would have laughed. He was the centerpiece in D.C. United's revived back line during the team's run to the 2012 Eastern Conference Final, a run that included a seven-match unbeaten streak to end the regular season and during which the Black-and-Red allowed only five goals. Even through the first few games of this year, B-Mac played strong in front of Bill Hamid's goal until United became truly mired in the infamous 13-match winless meltdown. (Aside: incidentally, both streaks I mention here began immediately following games against RSL; the unbeaten run following a 1-0 loss in Sandy, and the winless streak after a 1-0 win at home.)
But during that run of futility, Brandon McDonald became a shell of his former self. He was singularly at fault for all three of Columbus' first half goals in a late April loss and was appropriately removed at halftime of that match. While McDonald is quick, it was his anticipation that elevated his game in 2012, but with the team losing and his confidence sapped, McDonald spent more time this season thinking and less trusting his instincts. The result was a run of form that was the worst we saw in the just over two years he spent in DC. He lost marks and failed to pick up runners. His ability to organize and lead the defense disappeared. After managing to restrain his impulse to send Long Balls to Nobody in Particular (TM) during the run to end 2012, that penchant returned with a vengeance, making McDonald a liability both in possession and in defense. In the friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara last Friday, Ben Olsen put McDonald in during the second half as a defensive midfielder and later moved him to fullback, not allowing him near his previous position in the center of defense.
With McDonald earning a guaranteed $258,250 in 2012 - and likely somewhat more this year - and with United languishing at the bottom of the standings, it didn't make any sense to have his hefty salary cap hit sitting on the bench (especially since Dejan Jakovic, the other standout center back from last season also sitting the pine while earning around $230,000). Once he fell out of favor, a move away from RFK was always likely, the only question being whether United would get anything in return. B-Mac, whom United acquired from San Jose the same day they traded Dax McCarty to the Red Bulls for Dwayne De Rosario, was always popular with the DC fanbase, myself included, and nobody saw the degree or speed of his freefall from last season's form. If he can get his confidence back - and with a change of scenery, it's entirely possible - you guys could have yourselves a good, physical defender with a good vision and decent passing range.