It was a legitimate worry for D.C. United that Brandon McDonald's tenure in Washington might be a short one. When he arrived via trade from San Jose last June, he was in the prime of his career, but more importantly in the final year of his contract and ready to test the market overseas.
But instead of making the leap, McDonald chose security, and he's repaid United's commitment to him with rare consistency for a defensive unit that has been constantly changing.
|D.C. United at Union|
|When » Saturday, 7 p.m.|
|PPL Park, Chester, Pa.|
|TV » CSN|
|United announced that it has loaned second-year defender Ethan White to the third-division Richmond Kickers for games Friday and Saturday.|
"We're in first place in the East so I think from the years past, what I've done since I've been here, I think I've done alright," McDonald said. "I've come in, and I've helped the squad."
After starting 18 of United's final 19 matches last season -- and signing a new deal in August -- the 26-year-old center back has been among coach Ben Olsen's first 11 in 14 out of 15 matches so far this year. He's accounted for 1,260 minutes, second only to Dwayne De Rosario, the only D.C. player to have started every regular-season game.
"When you remain healthy, you get the games that you need and get the experience and knowledge in game situations," United goalkeeper Bill Hamid said. "It's been vital for him, and it's showed. He's very deserving of an all-star nominee, and he didn't get it. For me personally, I'm very disappointed in that, but he can hold his head up high, continue working, and he has shown he's one of the most consistent center backs in this league so far."
McDonald has also had no fewer than five different partners in the middle of the back line. Primary center backs Emiliano Dudar and Dejan Jakovic have both had injury problems, forcing Robbie Russell and Daniel Woolard to slide in from their normal outside positions. Perry Kitchen also started in the back in United's 5-3 loss at San Jose.
"The transition for that, I don't necessarily think it's on me," McDonald said. "I think it's on the guys who have got to come in because they've been out for a while."
McDonald has carried on, comforted in part by a significant pay raise -- he went from $45,000 last season to $220,000 base salary (plus a signing bonus) after signing a new deal last August. His ultimate goal remains to work his way back into the U.S. national team after a lone camp invite back in January 2010. His most direct route is through leading D.C. United (8-4-3) to back to the playoffs.
"It's being here with these guys and Ben," McDonald said. "He's been great to me. I think our relationship and moving forward with how we both approach things what we're trying to do here collectively as a team. It's me being in the back trying to be the guy who keeps guys together, trying to be a leader. It's great. I'm happy."