Salary cap considerations were a factor in the eyebrow-raising trade Tuesday that saw D.C. United part with the top allocation spot, United general manager Dave Kasper said.
The club sent the No. 1 position in the allocation order and homegrown center back Ethan White to the Philadelphia Union for the No. 6 slot and veteran center back Jeff Parke. While U.S. World Cup veteran Maurice Edu and Guatemala international Marco Pappa are reportedly on the verge of entering the player acquisition mechanism, United would have been unable to use the top spot after a slew of acquisitions this offseason — including striker Eddie Johnson, midfielder Davy Arnaud, and defenders Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin and Parke.
"We would not have been in position to add another DP at this point," Kasper told Goal USA. "And one of the players, if signed, is going to be a DP. The other player is pretty close to max salary — a big hit on the cap. We were not in position to add a big cap charge."
In Parke, United acquires a durable 31-year-old who was capped by the U.S. national team in 2012. He has started at least 20 matches every season of his nine-year MLS career with the New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders and Union, and at least 28 games each of the past three campaigns.
United had spoken with the Sounders about acquiring Parke on multiple occasions, Kasper said, before engaging with Philadelphia earlier this offseason. Although Kasper acknowledged it was bittersweet for United to give up a 23-year-old academy product in White (34 starts in three seasons), he said it was a necessary evil to improve what was the league's second-worst back line in 2013.
"We really felt that we needed another starting-caliber center back going into the season," Kasper said. "We have some younger center backs, some up-and-coming center backs. But we really felt like we needed somebody who's an everyday starter.
"At the end of the day, this is going to be a great opportunity for Ethan. [The Union] are thin at the center back position, and they're moving a starting center back. I believe the door is open for him to go in there and prove himself and earn his job."
Although the trade comes just two days before United selects first overall in the MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia, and two of the top prospects available are California center backs Steve Birnbaum and Christian Dean, Kasper said the deal will not affect how the club selects.
"We have a shortlist of players that we have been tracking for quite some time," Kasper said. "We're certainly comfortable with where we're at in the process."
United on Tuesday also confirmed the previously reported sale of Canadian center back Dejan Jakovic to Japan's Shumizu S-Pulse. The team's second-longest tenured player, Jakovic made 94 starts over five seasons with United but struggled with injuries in 2013.
"I believe we were at a point with Dejan and Dejan was at a point with us where it was a good time for a change," Kasper said. "For him, it was an opportunity to get a multi-year contract. For us, it was an opportunity to offload a big chunk of salary cap as well as collect some allocation money from the transfer.
"So when you put this in context, we sort of replaced Dejan with Parke and we're picking up quite a big amount of salary cap space in that move."
Jakovic had guaranteed compensation topping $300,000 last season, while Parke was at $216,500.
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