There was plenty of hand wringing when the Red Bulls announced they flipped Jamison Olave to Real Salt Lake for a small fortune of allocation money.
The concern is basically boils down to, why trade the team's best defender?
But doest it really matter how good the individual pieces are when the sum total is pretty bad?
Since the Red Bulls acquired Olave from RSL in a package deal with Fabian Espindola, the Red Bulls defense plainly hasn't been very good. In 2013, the Red Bulls were in a three-way tie for third in goals against amongst playoff teams. This past season, the only team that gave up more goals than the Red Bulls were the Seattle Sounders.
And yes, in 2013 the Red Bulls won the Supporters' Shield and in 2014, the Sounders did. But you can do that when you score goals. And without the most dominant offensive player the league has ever seen in Thierry Henry, you can't hold out for an all-things-being-equal situation. There is no replacement to the offense Henry brings. So you rebuild the defense. Without Henry, goals are harder to come by. So you try and prevent them.
Fine, it's not as if Olave, for all the skill, speed and strength he brings, isn't contributing. But how much longer he can is a legitimate question. He's 33-years-old and doesn't play on turf. He set a career high for games played and minutes in MLS in 2013 and then broke those records in 2014. He was getting paid $280,000.
The trade essentially turns an aging, increasingly overworked center back into $480,000 worth of cap space, which, when you mix in the salary cap hit vacated by Thierry Henry ($387,500) and the likely departures of Ibrahim Sekagya ($190,000), Bobby Convey ($137,500) and Kosuke Kimura ($105,000) that's $1.3 million in cap space with which to find a new center back pairing.
It's not a bad strategy when defensive lapses have been a problem for the better part of two seasons -- and kept the Red Bulls out of the MLS Cup.
The question becomes how well the Red Bulls can use that money to find center defenders who can help keep the ball out of Luis Robles' net.
But moving to make improvements, especially in light of how bad the Red Bulls defense has been, is, to me, better than staying pat.