Red Bulls midfielder Lloyd Sam has been traded to D.C. United, the team announced.
New York will receive General Allocation Money for Sam, and will retain percentage of any future transfer fee if the player is transferred outside of MLS.
"Lloyd has been a key member of our family and we thank him for all of his contributions to our club, both on and off the field," said Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis. "The quality of Lloyd's character and the talent that he possesses made the decision to trade Lloyd extremely difficult. With that said, this move allows us flexibility if we want to add another piece to our team moving forward."
Sam appeared in 106 career matches with New York and made 82 starts. He finished his career with the Red Bulls with 20 goals and 22 assists.
The writing has been on the wall for Sam since Alex Muyl entered the rotation. The 31-year-old has essentially been overtaken by the rookie, being relegated to the bench against the Columbus Crew and New York City FC. That's the nature of sports. The instant a younger, cheaper player can assume a starting position, the veteran is deemed replaceable and shipped out, especially in MLS where teams struggle to stay below the salary cap.
Sam was a dominant presence for two seasons (four goals and nine assists in 2014, 10 goals and seven assists in 2015), and was instrumental in leading the team to the Supporters' Shield last season.
He's been less productive this year, registering one goal and four assists in 16 appearances. Those are respectable numbers, but he's lost a step, not controlling the wing and embarrassing defenders like in past years.
There's been an attempt to move Sam to the center of the field, playing him as an attacking midfielder in the 4-2-2-2. However, he's looked out of place in that formation, more comfortable in isolation out wide, providing him with opportunities to take on defenders in 1v1 situations.
The Red Bulls already have an attacker (and Designated Player) on the bench in Gonzalo Veron, but he's struggled in limited minutes and appears unable to adapt to Major League Soccer.
The New York Red Bulls have lost their good luck charm.
Lloyd Sam is off to D.C. United in a trade that netted the Red Bulls cash considerations. He is one of the longest tenured Red Bulls and was known for his jovial attitude on and off the pitch, in addition to breaking defenders' ankles on the wing.
Sam came to the team during the 2012 season and struggled to find a place in Hans Backe's system and was seen as possibly a lazy player. The next season he worked hard under new coach Mike Petke to secure a place in the team's rotation, eventually becoming a starter on the wing by the 2014 season. He never gave up that starting spot and held it until homegrown player Alex Muyl became Jesse Marsch's preferred winger.
Sam's most famous goal scored for the club was the goal to put the Red Bulls up 3-1 against the Chicago Fire on the final game of the 2013 season. That put the game out of reach, effectively clinching the 2013 Supporters Shield, the first trophy ever won by the franchise.
Sam streaked down the right wing, getting one on one with the defender, faking him out, before scoring a curler on the back post. It is known as the "Lloyd Sam Chop" and is a move Red Bulls fans have seen countless times.
Known primarily for his assists, Sam added a new goal scoring dimension to his game during the 2015 season, netting 10 regular season goals, the first time he had ever scored double digit goals in a professional season.
Outside of his play, Sam is known for saving the 2014 season with a little help from a gift from Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh. Roxburgh always thought Sam was a fashionable man, and purchased a Lady Gaga jacket for his girlfriend, one day when he was out to dinner with his wife. By that time, Sam had actually broken it off with the girl, and ended up hanging the jacket in his locker.
Soon after hanging up the jacket, the team went on a winning streak, which allowed them to secure a playoff spot. That jacket remained a good luck charm for the team, and will remain in the team's lore.
This trade may be inevitable because of the realities of the MLS salary cap, but it hurts nonetheless, moreso given the trade partner. D.C. United is the Red Bulls' more hated rival, and it will be weird seeing such a beloved player in the Red and Black.
Hopefully the team has a corresponding move lined up, because Lloyd Sam will certainly be missed, and letting him go without a plan will leave supporters disappointed.