D.C. United on Thursday shook up their attack, acquiring Colombian striker Lionard Pajoy and an international roster spot from the Philadelphia Union for midfielder Danny Cruz.
The move is clearly aimed at improving the team for this season’s stretch run. In the long term, there is little doubt Pajoy, a 31-year-old foreign player making $195,000 this year, has less value than Cruz, a 22-year-old American making $106,500. At the limit for foreign players, United needed the international slot to make room for Pajoy on the roster.
But Cruz, acquired in an offseason trade with the Houston Dynamo, has become a luxury at outside midfield with the emergence of rookie Nick DeLeon and, to a lesser extent, journeyman Lewis Neal. After starting 10 of United’s first 14 games, Cruz had played just 159 minutes total in D.C.’s eight matches since. He recorded one goal and three assists with United.
With Dwayne De Rosario seemingly locked into a withdrawn forward role and Chris Pontius settled in on the left flank, Pajoy likely will compete for one starting spot amid a striker corps that also includes Hamdi Salihi, Maicon Santos and Long Tan.
Playing his first season in MLS, Pajoy had five goals and two assists with Philadelphia — a disappointing haul considering he was brought in to largely replace the production of departed All-Star midfielder-forward Sebastien Le Toux.
While Salihi (five goals) and Santos (seven goals) have each shown flashes of goal-scoring prowess, the two players have fallen out of favor with coach Ben Olsen. Tan (one career goal), a 24-year-old acquired in a trade with Vancouver in late June, has started United’s past two league games.
Salihi also is expected to miss time this fall while playing for the Albania national team, and Santos is dealing with a toe injury that sidelined him this past weekend against Sporting Kansas City.
Pajoy will be available for United on Sunday when they host the Union at RFK Stadium.