The Full 90

The Wizards defensive shake-up: Enter Thomas, exit Escobar

The trade that brought Shavar Thomas back to Kansas City yesterday for two second-round picks and some allocation money was, perhaps, the first of many shake-ups the Wizards will be making to try and fix their defense.

To make room for him, the Wizards released defender Pablo Escobar before Major League Soccer’s guaranteed contract deadline. (More moves might be ahead as the Wizards look to solidify their beleagured back four.)

To call Escobar an enigma is like calling a tornado just a windy thunderstorm. The Colombian that signed with MLS and the Wizards this offseason from Deportivo Cali has superb raw tools: Fast, tall, athletic, a strong right foot. But, man was he raw. His first touch was heavy, his passing accuracy was off, his speed didn’t translate to game speed, there was a massive communication barrier with his English-speaking teammates and he had a propensity to mental lapses. (Exhibit A: The D.C. United game. Exhibit B: The Chicago Fire game.)

What Thomas lacks in jaw-dropping physical tools, he makes up for in experience, strength and the ability to communicate.

Right now, those just might be what the doctor ordered. Let’s all pause for a second to relieve the memory of all three Red Bulls goals from this weekend.

No perish those thoughts.

This isn’t a recent problem. As the season has progressed, finding a cohesive and effective central defense pairing has been a near impossible task for head coach Peter Vermes.

He’s used FIVE different central defensive pairings in 12 games this season, never once playing the same two players more than two games in a row. Some of these lineup shuffles took place because of injuries (Jimmy Conrad missed two and a half games with a quad injury), but it has mostly been Vermes searching for a pair that works.

I’m not a professional (nor even an amateur) coach,* but I’m pretty sure the foundation for a strong partnership is consistency. If you are familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of your partner (and you can only learn of these through repetition), you tend to be a stronger unit. Go ask any couple married for 25 years if I’m lying.

*No matter how many hours I’ve logged in Football Manager or FIFA.

Hopefully, Thomas can be just the partner Conrad needs. (Of course, if that