Ben Olsen. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

D.C. United acquires Boca Juniors midfielder Luciano Acosta

Washington, D.C., February 9, 2016 – D.C. United has acquired Argentine midfielder Luciano Acosta on loan from legendary club Boca Juniors for the 2016 season. The 21-year-old playmaker is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Wednesday night to undergo a physical and to sign his loan deal. It’s reported that United has an option to buy Acosta after the loan expires at the end of the season.

The diminutive (5’2″) midfielder will add much-needed pace and playmaking ability to a United midfield that has been missing that element since Christian Gomez was traded to the Colorado Rapids in February of 2008. It is expected that Acosta will clear all international hurdles and be ready for selection when they start the knockout round of the CONCACAF Champions League against Querataro of Mexico two weeks from tonight.

United has depended on the gritty play of both Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud mainly for the past two seasons. And while that combination put United in good position in the league during that time, it was clear that that particular well had gone dry by the end of the 2015 MLS Season. Kitchen is no longer with United as his contract expired as he is expected to sign with a European team soon. Arnaud is rumored to be retiring after his attempt to come back was scuttled during the first week of preseason training due to his lingering concussion symptoms.

The addition of Acosta is a welcome sight for United fans as they have desperately craved someone, anyone, to help their attack from central midfield as it sputtered at the tail end of the 2015 campaign. While his size will work against him in a renowned physical league like MLS, his creativity, quickness and flat out straight-line speed will increase the tempo of United’s seemingly predictable attack pace.

Acosta played the 2013-14 season with the Argentine giants before going on loan with Estudiantes in 2015. His teammate at Estudiantes Leanardo Gil was United’s main target this offseason before he finally was pulled from consideration a week ago. United then turned their efforts towards Italian midfielder Antonio Nocerino of AC Milan and what a storm that story brewed up. United submitted a Discovery Claim on Nocerino only to see Orlando City SC step in and offer a reported $900,000 a year deal (United reportedly has offered a $700,000 a year deal). Seeing as United were in negotiations with Nocerino, Orlando City clearing violated MLS’ tampering rules and will most likely have to pay United something substantial in return for the services of Nocerino.

It’s being reported that a trade between United and Orlando City is imminent to acquire Nocerino. While Nocerino would have been a nice addition to United’s midfield, the position seems rather stacked with the addition last week of Marcelo Sarvas as well as the drafting of Julian Buescher and Paul Clowes last month.

United head coach Ben Olsen stated that team is not finished on the international market and the team “has plenty of money” to acquire “one for sure, two possible” players in the very near future. In order to acquire Acosta this afternoon, United traded midfielder/forward Conor Doyle to the Colorado Rapids for a 2017 third-round pick. The move also frees up a spot to possibly sign English midfielder Rob Vincent from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The 25-year old has been with United since the beginning of preseason and has impressed Olsen and his coaching staff.

United will travel back to Florida this weekend to begin to ramp up training ahead of their match in Querataro on February 14th. United will play three matches down in Florida over the next two weeks starting with the Tampa Bay Rowdies (Feb 13th) and then playing the Philadelphia Union (Feb 17th) before wrapping up their trip against the Montreal Impact (Feb 20th).

Ben Olsen

United move up in SuperDraft to select Julian Buescher; trade 13th pick down to 2nd Round

Baltimore, MD, January 14, 2015 – D.C. United moved up two picks in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft and selected Syracuse midfielder Julian Buescher with the 11th pick in the first round this afternoon. Two picks later United traded the #13 pick to Orlando City SC for TAM (Targeted Allocation Money) and the #12 pick in the 2nd Round.

Buescher, a German native, was acquired from Sporting Kansas City for TAM. Head coach Ben Olsen said the team got most, but not all, of the TAM traded to Sporting with their trade down deal with Orlando City.

Buescher’s vision and box-to-box ability attracted Ben Olsen and his staff to him at the MLS Combine this past week. “A man among boys,” was the description leveled at Buescher by the MLS draft pundits on the webcast. Buescher was dominant for the Orangemen in the College Cup this past December. Olsen said in describing his new player, “he has a healthy arrogance in making the final pass”. Olsen says he see’s Buescher as a #10, #8 or even possibly as a wide midfielder.

However, Buescher will most likely play in central midfield in tandem with Markus Halsti. Halsti will play deeper and allow Buescher to move forward and join the attack. Davy Arnaud’s concussion issue and Perry Kithchen’s inevitable departure (after failed contract extension attempts) most likely played a big role in acquiring the German midfielder. Arnaud will report to preseason camp and any decision on him will be based on how he responds in camp.

United wasn’t done and later acquired English midfielder Paul Clowes from Clemson with the #12 pick in the second round (via earlier) Orlando City trade. Clowes is a defensive midfielder that covers a ton of ground but he is older than most of the draft picks and will cost United an International Player roster spot.

The 3rd and 4th Rounds of the draft will be conducted next week via a conference call. United has three picks in the 4th Round (#6, #13 and #16).

 

United Notes

  • potential devastating news as it is being reported that Bill Hamid’s successful surgery on the meniscus in his right knee might put him out for “several months”. Initial reports had the recovery time at approximately 4-6 weeks for recovery
  • Forward Jairo Arrieta has ended his time with United after signing a contract with the New York Cosmos of the NASL
Perry Kitchen celebrates his first goal of the night. Red Bull NY rallied back to tie DC United 2-2 at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. on Saturday April 11, 2015.

D.C. United getting house in order ahead of Free Agency and Re-Entry Draft

Washington, D.C., December 7, 2015 – D.C. United today exercised contract options for a number of players as well as declining options on some important players.

With the Midnight deadline approaching tonight, United exercised options on starters Fabian Espindola, Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum and Taylor Kemp. Fringe first-team players Chris Korb, Conor Doyle, Luke Mishu, Travis Worra, Miguel Aguilar and Jared Jeffery all had their options picked up as well.

Players who’s options were not picked up included Jairo Arrieta, Andrew Dykstra, Michael Farfan and Perry Kitchen. Kitchen is out of contract and far apart in negotiations with the team and seems likely to move on to Europe this winter if a settlement isn’t reached. The team is also actively trying to re-sign Dykstra as well. United will have until this Friday’s Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft to try and retain any of the veterans who’s options were declined. If United can’t come to an agreement with those players, they will be eligible for the Re-Entry Draft.

United waived Argentine midfield Facundo Coria after limited appearances this summer.

MLS’ first form of true Free Agency begins tomorrow and it will be interesting to see if United is a big player in that arena. Considering how busy United continues to be in trading and acquiring MLS proven players over the past few years, it would seem logical that they would be highly motivated to sign potential free agents.

Ben Olsen. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

United draws Mexican side Queretaro FC in CCL knockout stage

Washington, D.C., October 22, 2015 – D.C. United learned their opponent in the upcoming knockout round of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League this February – Mexican side Queretaro FC.

United finished as the #2 overall seed and will play away to their Mexican counterparts (Feb 23-25; exact date TBD) before returning home (Mar 1-3) in the aggregate goal series. The semifinal rounds for the competition are scheduled for March 15-17 (1st leg) and April 5-7 (2nd leg).

For the first time in the competitions history, it will be an all MLS-Liga MX quarterfinal round. The matchups are as follows:

#1 Club America vs #8 Seattle Sounders

#2 D.C. United vs #7 Queretaro FC

#3 Real Salt Lake vs #6 Tigres UNAM

#4 Los Angeles Galaxy vs #5 Santos Laguna

 

While Queretaro FC isn’t one of Mexican soccers traditional powers, they have made quite an impression since being promoted to Liga MX a few years ago. Enigmatic Brazilian Superstar Ronaldinho has been the club’s most famous player recently but he flamed out pretty quickly and is no longer with the club. There are two names that MLS fans will recognize however in former Chivas USA left back Jonathan Bornstein and former 2013 Golden Boot winner Camilo, formerly of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

United is hoping to bring a more sensible approach to this match up as opposed to last winters debacle against Costa Rican power Alajuelensa when United fell 5-2 in the first leg and made it nearly impossible to come back in the home leg which United won 2-1. The most glaring obstacle will remain with the Black-and-Red in that the first leg will occur before United even plays a 2016 MLS match.

That decided disadvantage will have to be figured out by Ben Olsen and his staff as going to Mexico to get a result against a team in midseason form is much more difficult than doing the same in Costa Rica. Also adding into the equation is that while United will do it’s best to keep it’s current roster together through the offseason, inevitable changes will be made to the roster that could further complicate potential rhythm issues heading into the two-leg challenge.

No doubt a much more preferable option would have been if United had been seeded against a fellow MLS team – this essentially would have put both teams on level terms in regard to fitness and lack of meaningful game action. However it was not to be and United must now prepare for a dangerous opponent with little game action aside from preseason games.

Perhaps United could take a cue from the Montreal Impact who spent a good portion of their preseason training and playing Mexican teams en route to their eventual appearance in the CCL finals where they fell short against Mexican powerhouse Club America.

United tap Aguilar and Metzger in 2015 MLS SuperDraft

D.C. United this afternoon selected M/F Miguel Aguilar from the University of San Francisco (17th pick overall – 1st Round) and MF Dan Metzger from the University of Maryland (42nd pick overall – last pick in 2nd Round) in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, PA.

Aguilar, a 2014 All-West Coast Conference First Team player, scored 15 goals and added 9 assists in his four-year career at USF as a pacy and highly skilled striker. He is projected to play on the outside of midfield for United as head coach Ben Olsen compared his skill set to former United player Andy Najar and current midfielder Nick DeLeon.

Metzger, a four-year star in College Park for the Terrapins, is a sturdy defensive midfielder much in the mold of current United player Perry Kitchen and is looked upon as a steal as most mock drafts had Metzger rated as a mid-to-late first round selection. Metzger was a First Team All-Big Ten player in 2014 and was also a First Team All-ACC selection in 2013 before Maryland made the jump to the Big Ten Conference this past summer.

While there are still two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft to go United does not own any picks and it’s highly unlikely they would trade future options for any movement into the remainder of the draft.

United is set to report to RFK Stadium a week from today to begin preseason training. The team will spend the bulk of the next 7 weeks splitting time between Bradenton, Florida and Austin, Texas in preparation for the 2015 season which begins at home on March 7th against the Montreal Impact.

Before that however the squad will gear up for their CONCACAF Champions League knockout round series with Costa Rican champions Alejuelense that begins in Costa Rica on Thursday, February 26th. The return leg of the series will flip back to RFK Stadium on Wednesday, March 4th. The winner of the aggregate goals series will move on to the Semi-final round which will begin a few weeks later.

United adding depth ahead of SuperDraft

In the span of 48 hours D.C. United have acquired Finnish International midfielder Markus Halsti and Costa Rican International striker Jairo Arrieta to help bolster the squad ahead of their 2015 campaign.

Halsti, a 30-year old free transfer from Swedish front runner’s Malmo FC, will most likely slip into central midfield alongside Perry Kitchen. Halsti played for Malmo for seven seasons and brings exstensive UEFA Champions League experience to the Black-and-Red. Davy Arnaud, who played in successful partnership with Kitchen for most of 2014, will now most likely fill the Lewis Neal role of veteran backup though I expect the fiery Arnaud to have a lot to say on the field in preseason in competition with Halsti for that role.

Arrieta comes over in a trade with Orlando City SC for a 2015 International Player spot. Arrieta was selected by Orlando City in the recent Expansion Draft in December. Arrieta scored 17 goals with 9 assists in his three years in Columbus before being selected last month by Orlando City.

Both players will help build depth for the club as the team begins their 2015 season with a two-leg aggregate series with Costa Rican champion Alejuelense beginning on February 26th in Costa Rica. United will also add a few more players to the squad in the form of draft picks being made when the MLS SuperDraft starts tomorrow in Philadelphia. United currently holds the 17th pick (1st Round) and 42nd pick (last pick in 2nd round) but as well all know, there is a ton of wheeling-and-dealing going on during the Draft and United may improve their positioning or they may trade down for bonus picks.

Either way, United’s roster is shaping up nicely ahead of the start of training camp on January 22nd.

After years of waiting, D.C. United Stadium Bill passes unanimously

Earlier this morning the news all D.C. United fans have been clamoring for for nearly a decade came to fruition. The D.C. City Council unanimously approved Bill 20-805 – otherwise known as the District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014

The D.C. Council approved the development of a new 20,000-25,000-seat stadium for D.C. United in the group’s second vote this morning. The stadium, which is set to be constructed in Buzzard Point, is targeted for a 2017 opening. A third and final vote implemented immediate action for the Council to move forward with plan.

The District will now endeavor to negotiate the final hurdle in the plan when they begin talks with real estate developers Akridge who own the last parcel of land needed for construction. If those negotiations bear fruit sooner than later, then a solid ground breaking date can be put forth by the team.

Today’s announcement is certainly the biggest off-the-field story in team history. After years of fruitless negotiation and not-so-near misses with Poplar Point and with neighboring Prince Georges County, it finally appears that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Martin, it’s time to hose off your shovel..

United loses depth in Expansion Draft

D.C. United lost some depth in this afternoon’s MLS Expansion Draft but were able to keep four regulars that were all in danger of departing the club.

Lewis Neal was selected in the 5th round (of 10) by Orlando City SC and returns to Orlando after playing with the previous USL squad prior to his arrival in D.C. United immediately pulled back midfielder Davy Arnaud to their protected list. Tommy McNamara, property of United for all of two weeks seemingly, was then selected in the 8th round by NYCFC. McNamara was just recently selected in the Chivas USA Dispersal Draft late last month.

While the selection of Neal wasn’t a total surprise given his history in Orlando, the fact that Arnaud, Eddie Johnson and Chris Korb weren’t selected definitely raised some eyebrows.

So while United has parted ways with some valuable depth in Neal, the loss of McNamara is negligible considering he net set foot on the field for the Black-and-Red. What was lost was a good deal of promise in the mullet-ed midfielder from Clemson.

As for Neal, although one would struggle to say that he was anything more than a solid MLS-caliber player, he did provide the club with two unforgettable moments in recent history. First up was his game-winning goal in stoppage time against the Columbus Crew on the penultimate week of the 2012 season that gave United its first playoff appearance in five years. And then  there was his crowning achievement in MLS and perhaps his entire professional career, the lone goal in United’s shocking 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah on October 1, 2013.

In the midst of the single-worst season in MLS history, United and Neal carved out a singular moment that has resonated in ways that almost can’t be calculated. Lewis Neal will be sorely missed but United will soldier on.

United releases protected players on Expansion Draft list

Wrapping up a very busy day for D.C. United, the team released its list of protected players ahead of the MLS Expansion Draft to be held this Wednesday afternoon at league headquarters in New York City.

In addition to the list of players protected by United (listed below), the team declined the options on the following players: Defenders Nana Attakora, Jeff Parke and Conor Shanosky as well as midfielders Kyle Porter and Alex Caskey. Each of these players are eligible for the Re-Entry Draft which begins this Thursday afternoon as well as the Expansion Draft.

United did offer a contract extension to midfielder David Estrada in hopes of him remaining with the team, if he’s not selected in the Expansion Draft.

Expansion teams Orlando City SC and NYCFC (New York City FC) will comb through the entire league’s draft lists and choose players in alternating order with Orlando City SC selecting first. There will be 10 rounds of the draft and no team can lose more than two players. Once a player is picked by the expansion sides, whichever team loses a player can pull back an unprotected player to their roster.

Each team is allowed to protect 11 players with Homegrown Players being automatically protected unless they have graduated out of their contracts by the end of 2014. Additionally, each team must protect X amount of International Players minus 3 on their roster. United is in a special circumstance because they only have one International Player (Kyle Porter) and league rules say you do not need to protect just the one player. This move was made possible by the trading of Samuel Inkoom earlier today to Houston for Andrew Driver. Unlike Inkoom, Driver has a green card and thus is deemed not an international player. Had United not pulled the trigger on that trade, the team would most likely have protected Inkoom over Porter. The luxury of making the trade is that United can add another player to their list that can be protected that normally otherwise would not have happened.

Considering how much bang for the buck United got from nearly most of their roster this past season, it is and was a difficult choice to choose the 11 players to protect.

Here are the players officially being protected by United today:

Steven Birnbaum
Bobby Boswell
Nick DeLeon
Fabian Espindola
Sean Franklin
Bill Hamid
Taylor Kemp
Perry Kitchen
Chris Pontius
Chris Rolfe
Lius Silva

As you can see, a few surprises have cropped up from this list. Most notably Designated Player Eddie Johnson. Johnson struggled to fit in on a rebuilt United side that was desperate to increase goal scoring from their historically inept 2013 season. Johnson was acquired from Seattle and although he did score seven goals, it took him quite a while to adapt to United’s unique style of play. However, his DP salary could be too much for either of the expansion teams to take on, despite the fact that his grew up in Orlando.

Also left exposed is midfielder Davy Arnaud, a key cog in United’s central midfield presence this season. His age and salary could mean that he could be passed over. Defender Chris Korb is another player that could draw interest as he has been a solid if not unspectacular pro in MLS through his four seasons with the club.

I think those are the only players the expansion teams may be interested in with Estrada being a long shot but a good depth pick up if chosen.

So, with all that being said, here is what I expect to happen:

I believe Korb will be selected (don’t know which club just yet) and United will pull back Johnson as their need for another striker will be paramount with the expected lengthy suspension of Fabian Espindola (six games is the rumor) at the beginning of the MLS season.

After that, I don’t expect any other United players to be chosen.

We’ll see what goes down on Wednesday night – see you then..

 

United busy during four-hour trade window ahead of Expansion Draft

D.C. United made three trades in MLS’ four-hour trade window this morning ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s MLS Expansion Draft.

While not as significant as the number or quality of trades made last offseason to bolster United’s roster (don’t worry folks, there are still three months to make moves before the season starts in late February 2015), three minor moves were made to help alleviate roster issues ahead of the Expansion Draft.

Up first was United trading an International Player spot to Orlando City FC for allocation money, followed by the Black-and-Red sending goalkeeper Joe Willis and Ghanaian International midfielder Samuel Inkoom to the Houston Dynamo for Scottish midfielder Andrew Driver and a fourth-round MLS SuperDraft pick in 2016 before closing the trade window with another International Player slot being sent to NYCFC for more allocation money.

The upshot of the deal with Houston is that with Driver, United gets a bona fide wing midfielder with the added bonus that he holds a green card. What is the significance of that? Well, with Inkoom moving on, United is down to only one International player on the roster (Kyle Porter) and thus United does not need to protect any International players for Wednesday’s Expansion Draft according to MLS rules. This means that United can add an additional player to protect to their list of eleven protected players.

A shrewd piece of business on United’s part for sure but it did cost them an intriguing prospect in Inkoom who did well in his limited minutes with United last season.

Additionally, the pair of trades of International Player spots to both expansion teams will rake in some allocation money that United will no doubt put to use paying down some of their expected higher salaries with Eddie Johnson, Bobby Boswell and Sean Franklin all making well above $200,000 dollars next season.

Since United made the bold move of not availing themselves of high-priced International talent last season, what is the harm of giving up two of their six allotted International Player slots when they most likely wouldn’t use them anyway? It certainly worked to help stabilize United and bring them back to prominence in 2014 but do they want to hang their collective hats on that strategy for the near future?

Given their recent history with International signings and subsequent flops, it would seem United are heading in that same direction in 2015  though they would be wary to heed their own historical advice when the club decided to stand pat at the end of 2012 (after their surprising run to the Eastern Conference final).

United is far from done dealing with their roster ahead of what hopefully will be an historic 2015 (stadium deal – fingers crossed!!), but it’s good to see the front office continue to tinker and keep up with the rest of MLS in spite of their apparent allergy to International players.