United Gets Goalkeeper In Exchange for Boswell

Zach Wells started 17 games for New York in 2005 but has only started three times the past two years with Houston.
Zach Wells started 17 games for New York in 2005 but has only started three times the past two years with Houston. (By Victor Decolongon -- Getty Images)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2007

D.C. United made the first major move in what is looking to be a busy offseason yesterday, trading popular defender Bobby Boswell to the two-time defending champion Houston Dynamo for goalkeeper Zach Wells and a 2009 conditional draft pick.

Boswell, 24, was named MLS defender of the year just two seasons ago but fell out of favor last summer and saw a reduction in playing time. Wells, 26, has been a backup most of his four seasons, first in New York and then in Houston, but is regarded around the league as an emerging talent.

"Right now, Zach is on a big upswing," United Coach Tom Soehn said. "When he was given the opportunity, he really did well. He has shown he has special qualities."

United's pursuit of a goalkeeper stemmed from its imminent sale of veteran Troy Perkins to Norwegian club Valerenga. General Manager Dave Kasper said the sides have reached an agreement in principle on a transfer deal, and Perkins's agent, Patrick McCabe, said the player will travel to Oslo next week for a physical.

United was on the verge of acquiring two-time goalie of the year Joe Cannon from Los Angeles on Tuesday as part of a three-way trade that would have sent Boswell to Dallas, but the deal collapsed.

United's goalie situation has been very much in flux. The club did not exercise the 2008 contract option for backup Jay Nolly, although he will be given the opportunity to earn a roster spot at training camp, and waived third-stringer Shawn Crowe last month.

With Boswell gone, United is expected to acquire an experienced defender through a trade or international signing. The club is also hoping to announce the signing of Argentine midfield star Juan Sebasti¿n Ver¿n but seems unlikely to retain Christian Gomez, whose contract expires this month.

In addition, the future of team captain Jaime Moreno, MLS's all-time leading scorer, remains uncertain. Longtime starter Brian Carroll was claimed by San Jose in the expansion draft, and veteran midfielder Josh Gros is contemplating retirement because of head injuries.

Yesterday's trade involved risk for both clubs, but for different reasons. Boswell turned down a long-term contract extension last winter to keep open a possible move to Europe after the 2008 season. That did not deter Houston, which needs immediate defensive help after losing starter Ryan Cochrane in the expansion draft.

Wells started 17 regular season games for New York in 2005, but after being acquired by Houston, he did not make an MLS appearance the next year and started just three games last season. He did, however, play well in international competition last spring when Pat Onstad was injured. Unless the club makes another move, the Dynamo will again have to rely heavily on Onstad, who will turn 40 next month.

Boswell was a fan favorite in Washington for his solid play and off-field charm. Undrafted out of Florida International University, he made an impression at training camp in 2005 and immediately stepped in for Ryan Nelsen, who had left to play in England. Boswell started 26 games as a rookie and scored against English power Chelsea during an exhibition at FedEx Field, then made 30 starts and his U.S. national team debut in 2006.

Boswell was one of the team's most active players in the community and twice won United's humanitarian of the year award. He was a finalist for Cosmopolitan magazine's bachelor of the year honor, created a popular Web site and was a regular on the downtown party scene.

Last summer, however, Soehn felt Boswell's play slipped and proceeded to shuffle him in and out of the lineup the rest of the season.

In a meeting after the season, Boswell requested a trade. "He had a desire to move on, something he felt strongly about," Soehn said. "It would have been hard to bring him back and have him unhappy."

Said Boswell: "It was in my best interest to move on. They found a situation that helps them out and helps me out."

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