Players new and old returned to D.C. United training on Friday. Forward Lionard Pajoy made his first appearance in a D.C. training kit after being acquired from the Philadelphia Union on Thursday while Hamdi Salihi and Dejan Jakovic both returned from international duty and are available for selection Sunday when United hosts the Union.
With Salihi’s travel, Long Tan’s lack of production and Maicon Santos still battling toe and ankle issues, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pajoy get time right away at forward.
“Our system is a little different from [Philadelphia’s],” United coach Ben Olsen said. “We tend to go two high, and they played him more as a guy on the wings. I think he fits our system better, but that’s to be determined, isn’t it.”
With Dwayne De Rosario back from a shoulder injury that kept him out of last week’s game and international duty, Olsen might have to choose between partnering Pajoy with the reigning MLS MVP – who will be followed all weekend by NBC Sports for the making of another MLS36 documentary – or moving De Rosario back into Branko Boskovic’s spot and use Pajoy with Chris Pontius.
Like Danny Cruz, the trade was a surprise for Pajoy, who had arrived to training as normal on Thursday morning. Pajoy harbors no hard feelings for the Union and instead saw his time in Philadelphia (five goals in 20 games) as a productive stepping stone that helped land him in Washington.
“[D.C. United] is a team with more experience and history, that is looking to win titles so the expectations are higher,” Pajoy said. “That’s what I want, to bring a title to this team.”
Olsen wasn’t sure if the timing of the trade would have any effect on the game itself.
“Ultimately the trade wasn’t about this weekend necessarily,” Olsen said. “It’s about us getting better. But I’m sure for the fans on both ends and the media, it adds a little bit of a wrinkle.”
Given he’s the longest tenured player on the D.C. roster, Pontius has become accustomed to seeing players come and go.
“These trades, it’s the nature of the business,” Pontius said. “It took us by surprise. It’s sad to see Cruz go, but we’re trying to get Pajoy integrated into the team as quick as possible. Practice went pretty well. you can see that he’s a strong forward, he can hold up the ball. He’s physical so he’s not necessarily a guy that a lot of center backs want to play against.”
Pontius also addressed his flirtation with the U.S. national team and its subsequent historic victory over Mexico in Mexico City.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” Pontius said when asked about being named an alternate. “I’d like to be there. I thought they did well down there. Azteca isn’t an easy place to play so for us to come out with a win I thought was fantastic… I’ve obviously done well enough to get on their radar. I was on their radar last year, and I’ve come back from injury and done well enough to get back on it. For me, I’ve always said if I take care of business with D.C., the call will come. That’s how it’s going to remain for me.”