After weeks of speculation, D.C. United signed 19-year old Academy defender Jalen Robinson today to a Homegrown Player contract. The Catonsville, Maryland native has become the seventh member to join United since Major League Soccer implemented a program to allow Academy players to sign straight into the senior teams.
The added benefit of signing Academy players is not exposing that player to the MLS SuperDraft and losing the player to another club even though he came up through your clubs Academy. Robinson was coming off of his sophomore year at Wake Forest and had garnered 2nd-team All-ACC honors this past season as well as a spot on the All-ACC Freshman team in 2012.
“Jalen is one of the most athletic players in all of college soccer who can play center back or right back,” said D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper on the teams website. “He is very composed on the ball as he looks to play out of the back, and he also excels at one on one defending.”
“Jalen is a modern defender,” added D.C. United Director of Youth Development Sonny Silooy. “He is physical, fast and a smart soccer player that can play in different positions on the back line. We are excited to see another Academy player sign with our first team.”
With the signing of Robinson and the imminent sale of Dejan Jakovic to Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse, United has added strength to their defensive line in light of a very poor 2013. United acquired Bobby Boswell and Nana Attakora in the Re-Entry Draft late last month and with the addition of Robinson, United still may not be done acquiring more defenders.
With United holding the #1 pick in the upcoming SuperDraft on January 16th, they could go a number of ways to help continue to build their roster ahead of the 2014 MLS season. According to reports, United apparently has cooled on the notion of possibly selecting University of California defender Christian Dean (Dean signed a Generation Adidas deal today) with the top pick and is considering his central defensive teammate Steve Birnbaum instead. Birnbaum is widely considered a ready-to-play pick as opposed to the long-term upside of the more athletic Dean.
Additionally, University of Maryland striker Patrick Mullins is still a consideration for the Black-and-Red, especially in light of recent news that Olney, Maryland native and former National Team defender Oguchi Onyewu is out at Queens Park Rangers and is seriously considering a move t0 MLS.
Onyewu would either come back to MLS via the Designated Player route (highly unlikely) or he would come via the Allocation draft, of which United has the top pick. I seriously doubt United would consider selecting Onyewu either by DP contract or the allocation process due mostly to the fact that he’s spent the better part of the past four years dealing with serious knee injuries and a severe lack of playing time. However, the pull of a local boy who once was the toast of the National Team could be appealing to a front office that has seen a decline in attendance in back-to-back seasons.
United could also entertain the possibility to trading the #1 pick to drop lower in the draft and possibly gain more picks (United only has the top pick and the #56 pick). Either way United is in the cat bird seat and will be listening to all offers. It will definitely be an interesting couple of weeks heading into the Draft.