BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — Casey Townsend is back on the East Coast.
Returning to near where he was a collegiate star at Maryland, the Traverse City native was traded Friday from Chivas USA to D.C. United.
"He wanted to go back home," said Jason Carmien, Townsend's coach at Traverse City West. "He's got a lot of roots in Maryland. He's got a lot of friends there."
Townsend had been seeking a trade from Chivas for some time, and that finally materialized Friday when he was shipped across the country. Chivas USA received a 2014 second-round draft pick for the former Titans star, who is the only two-time Mr. Soccer selection in Michigan history.
"We were quite surprised that Casey was available for a trade and we pounced on it," D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper said in a press release. "He is an exciting striker who brings a ton of energy to the attack, and we think he will be a great fit with our side. He is very happy to return to the D.C. Metropolitan area and we are equally excited to bring him back."
After being a first-round draft pick in 2012 (fifth overall), Townsend saw extensive action as a rookie, but didn't think he fit into the team's long-term plans, Carmien said.
Chivas' new owner — Jorge Vergara — publicly said the organization wants to emphasize Mexican players.
"The Chivas organization, they just had so much turnover that he wasn't very happy," Carmien said. "They fired their entire staff and brought in a new coach and new general manager and (Townsend) just didn't feel he was valued. He had been trying to move since the end of the season, so he was happy to get the news."
Since October, six players from last year's squad have been traded or let go — and a common denominator among them is each is not eligible for Mexican citizenship.
Vergara also owns Chivas de Guadalajara of the Mexican league, and reportedly wants players who can play for both teams.
"Especially attacking players," Carmien said. "Casey didn't feel young American attacking players were going to get as much of a chance."
The Los Angeles Times' story about the Townsend trade Friday had an online headline of "Mexican makeover continues for Chivas USA."
Townsend played in 17 games (10 starts) during his rookie year with Chivas USA, logging a goal and two assists. Chivas was 7-18-9, finishing last in the Western Conference and last overall in goals scored in the league.
Townsend started off hot, with a goal in his third professional game, but then had to deal with injuries that partially derailed his rookie season.
United was 17-10-7 last year, earning the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
United starts its preseason today against Columbus in Bradenton, Fla.
After finalizing the deal for the 23-year-old Townsend, United also announced the release of Chinese forward Long Tan, leaving 26-year-old American Chris Pontius, 29-year-old Albanian Hamdi Salihi, 31-year-old Colombian Lionard Pajoy, 20-year-old Brazilian Rafael de Souza and 16-year-old Jamaican Michael Seaton as the team's only other forwards.
D.C. travels to Chicago for June 2 and July 20 games and to Columbus for an April 27 match. Townsend returns to Los Angeles on Sept. 8 for a date against Chivas. United also has eight nationally-televised games for the upcoming season, including its March 2 opener at Houston.
"From a selfish standpoint, I'm really happy," Carmien said. "It's like an hour flight from Grand Rapids, so I can get out there more. And then he'll come to Chicago regularly and to Columbus."
D.C. United selected two picks behind Chivas in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, taking midfielder Nick DeLeon of Louisville when Townsend wasn't on the board.
In D.C., Townsend will join former Maryland teammates and defenders Taylor Kemp and Ethan White.
Townsend and White played together in 2009-10, while Kemp overlapped with Townsend from 2009-2011. Townsend and Kemp's 2011 Terps' team lost in the College Cup to 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year finalist DeLeon and Louisville. Both Townsend and DeLeon scored goals for their sides, but Louisville pulled out the 4-2 win over Maryland in the third round of the tournament.
While with Maryland for four years, Townsend scored 43 goals — third-best in Terps' history — and added 12 assists in 85 games. In 2011, Townsend was a second-team All-America selection.
"(Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski) runs — obviously I'm biased since I went there — but what I think is the most professional college environment you can be in," Kemp said on DCUnited.com. "He makes you ready to be in the pros better than I think any other coach."
Maryland has had a player selected in the MLS SuperDraft for 10 straight years.
"Maryland has a great program and we're lucky to be close to them, so we see a lot of quality college games," United head coach Ben Olsen said on the team's website.