United have re-signed U.S. Men’s National Team center back Steve Birnbaum to a multi-year contract using Targeted Allocation Money. The third-year defender had his most productive season yet in 2016, setting career highs in appearances (26), starts (26), minutes (2,340), goals (3), assists (2) and shots (33) en route to being named the club's Most Valuable Player and Defender of the Year.
Birnbaum established himself as a leading defensive figure in MLS and earned his first career All-Star nomination in 2016. He also enjoyed a breakout season on the international front, making his USMNT debut on Jan. 28 before scoring his first international goal several days later on Jan. 31 (a game-winner against Iceland). Birnbaum was also named to the National Team squad for the Copa America Centenario over the summer and World Cup Qualifiers in March and September.
“Through his work ethic and unwavering competitiveness, Steve has developed into a top central defender in MLS,” Dave Kasper, United general manager and VP of soccer operations, said. “Steve has become a leader in the locker room and has made a strong connection with his teammates, our fans and the city of Washington, D.C., and we are thrilled to have secured the long-term future of another talented young player as we move into 2017 and beyond.
The 25-year-old defender led the team in total aerial duels and duels won (172 and 62%, respectively) and was second in interceptions (76) in 2016. On the offensive end, Birnbaum proved to be an attacking presence; he was sixth on the team for most shots taken (33). He scored his first goal of 2016 in dramatic fashion, heading past Andre Blake in the 94th minute to earn a draw against Philadelphia on Aug. 6 after initially going down 2-0 in the first half. The next match, Birnbaum scored the game-winner in the seventh minute off a Lloyd Sam corner to lead D.C. United to a 2-0 victory over Portland. His third goal came in the 89th minute of the final match in the series against the New York Red Bulls, kickstarting a Black-and-Red comeback before Lamar Neagle scored a 95th-minute equalizer to secure the Atlantic Cup for United.
After the California native was selected in the first round (second overall) of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, Birnbaum made 21 appearances in his first season with the Black-and-Red and was a finalist for the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year award. In 2015, he scored his first career MLS goal against Toronto FC on June 6.
: Newport, California
: United States
: University of California, Berkley
: United re-sign defender Steve Birnbaum to a multi-year contract using Targeted Allocation Money.