Steven Birnbaum: 200 and Counting


Steven Birnbaum entered the 2014 MLS SuperDraft as a standout defender from the University of California, Berkeley. On January 14, 2014, he was selected by D.C. United as the second overall pick and would go on to become a stalwart in the Black-and-Red backline. On Wednesday, October 27, with his start against the New York Red Bulls, Birnbaum reached the impressive feat of 200 MLS appearances for D.C. United.

“200 appearances for one club is a special accomplishment for me and my family. It’s been an honor to play here ever since I was drafted and I’ve given everything I can to this club, who have supported me throughout my career.”

Birnbaum, in his eighth season in the District, has played a critical role for the Black-and-Red both on and off the field. In his rookie season, Birnbaum quickly found himself in the starting 11 and his defensive intuition earned him a finalist nomination for the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year. After showing consistency and composure as a center back, Birnbaum soon became one of the leading defenders in the league and in his third season, he was selected for the 2016 MLS Allstar game on the back of his impressive performances in the backline. Following the tutelage and guidance of veteran defender Bobby Boswell, Birnbaum became team captain in 2017 after the departure of 2004 MLS Cup winner, Boswell.

“​​Bobby was the first guy I met after coming to DC, and he immediately took me under his wing. He was the captain at the time and showed me the ropes in MLS and how to go about it. He was in the league for a long time and had some great success. I learned a lot from him on how to deal with players on and off the field, build relationships, and how to captain the side.”

Birnbaum took those lessons and continued pushing. He reached a career-high in 2018 when he started and played every minute in the 34 regular season games for the Black-and-Red. The defender also led the league in clearances, headed clearances, and aerial duels won, making him a contestant for the MLS Defender of the Year Award.

In eight years with D.C. United, Birnbaum also had the opportunity to play alongside and learn from England and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney from 2018 to 2019. Birnbaum was able to learn from one of the world's greatest ever players and helped him develop new skills as a leader.

“I learned a lot about leadership from Wayne [Rooney] during his time here. When to get into guys or when to put your arm around them. I've been fortunate enough to have a lot of great players around me to support me and learn from throughout my time here.”

The 2021 season didn’t have the start Birnbaum envisioned after undergoing two ankle surgeries, keeping him sidelined for the first 12 games of the season. His initial surgery was in January followed by a second operation in March. After a turbulent couple of months, Birnbaum returned to the field on July 17 to start against the Philadelphia Union.

His resilience to persevere through adversity and return to the field was not lost on Birnbaum, who has scored one goal and recorded an assist in 20 games since July 17.

“Overcoming two surgeries and not knowing where my career was headed, and if I was going to play soccer again, was a really difficult time for me. But, hitting this milestone [200 MLS appearances] just goes to show that if you keep persevering and believing in yourself that these things are possible. Now, it's on to the next 100.”

The defender has racked up 17,597 minutes, started in 196 games, scored nine and recorded five assists throughout his time in the District. The Black-and-Red captain will look to continue forging ahead with his MLS career and be an impact on the city and team for years ahead as the 30-year-old aims for another 100 appearances with his adopted hometown club.