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.

United acquires defender Kofi Opari from Los Angeles

D.C. United acquired central defender Kofi Opari today in a trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy. United is in need of central defense depth in light of the news that Jeff Parke may be out for a significant amount of time due to migraine headache issues.

United obtained the 23-year old defender in exchange for a swapping of Allocation Order picks with the Galaxy. The Galaxy move up to the 3rd spot in the allocation order whilst United drops to 11th. Additionally, United also received a 2015 2nd Round SuperDraft pick to complete the exchange.

“We are pleased to have acquired a smart, young defender in Kofi who has a very big upside, as well as securing a 2015 second round Superdraft pick,” said D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper through the teams website. “This is an important move for us to make at this time to add depth to our squad as we enter the second half of the MLS season and the CONCACAF Champion’s League group stage. We welcome Kofi to the D.C. United family.”

With the addition of Opare, United becomes that much deeper in central defense with the assumed loss of Parke for the near future. With a glut of matches in the upcoming month, including CONCACAF Champions League matches, Opari wll most likely jump to third in the depth chart behind entrenched starters Bobby Boswell and rookie Steve Birnbaum and ahead of Nana Attakora and Conor Shanosky, both of whom have not played a minute for United in league play this season.

Opare  has made a number of appearances for the Galaxy the last two seasons including starting both playoff matches last season. Opare played four years in college at the University of Michigan before being selected by the Galaxy last year.

Opare played for the U.S. U-20 National Team recently but is still eligible to represent Canada and Ghana if he so chooses.

United receives favorable draw in CCL; Johnson red card rescinded

D.C. United were drawn into a favorable group this evening at the CONCACAF Champions League draw in Miami, Florida

United will face Panamanian champions Tauro FC and Waterhouse FC from Jamaica.  The group stage consists of 24 teams in 8 groups and is a round-robin competition with only the group winner advancing to the knockout stages that will begin early in 2015. United is the #2 seed in Group 4. Tauro FC has been a mainstay in recent CCL competitions while the Black-and-Red have been out of the CCL since 2009. Waterhouse FC in Jamaica will be playing for the first time in the competition.

United, along with five other MLS teams will begin competition later this summer as the dates have yet to announced. The draw was quite favorable for United as they avoided tough CONCACAF squads such as Saprissa of Costa Rica and Municipal of Guatemala. No U.S. based MLS teams or Mexican teams can be drawn in the group stages. However, the Canadian champion (first leg final is tonight between Montreal Impact and Toronto FC) is drawn into New York Red Bulls Group 3.

Sporting Kansas City is the top seed in Group 2 but were unfortunate to draw Saprissa into their group. The Portland Timbers are the #2 seed in Group 5 and will face off against Olimpia of Honduras and very lightly regarded Alpha United FC.

All in all, United has a more than favorable chance to advance to the knockout stages in 2015

In other United news, MLS has rescinded the red card given to Eddie Johnson over the weekend against the New England Revolution and will be available to play this weekend at RFK Stadium against Sporting Kansas City. That match will begin at 7pm EST and will be televised locally on CSNWashington.

United Nearing Sponsorship Deal with Leidos, Inc

According to a report in the Washington Post, D.C. United is set to announce government contracting giant Leidos, Inc as the teams new sponsor shortly.

Leidos, Inc. formerly SAIC (Science Applications International Corp) will adorn United’s new uniforms, just unveiled this past weekend at a season-ticket holders function in Georgetown.

United had just said goodbye to a five-year partnership with Volkswagen at the end of 2013 and will now take on another Northern Virginia-based titan in Leidos, Inc. (based in Reston, VA) on a reported five-year deal that will closely mirror United’s $2.8 million a year deal previously with Volkswagen.

No comment was forthcoming from team officials or from officials from Leidos, Inc..

United signs Spanish left-back Christian Fernandez Salas

D.C. United announced the signing of Spanish left-back Christian Fernandez Salas this afternoon. The signing most likely brings a close to a whirlwind offseason for the Black-and-Red. Technical Director Dave Kasper had mentioned on several occasions in the past few weeks that the club was looking for a left-back and they found one in the 28-year old Spaniard.

“We are pleased to be adding a left back with solid La Liga experience who is in the prime of his career,” D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper said in a news release. “Christian is very good at getting forward to join the attack and providing quality service. This move helps solidify our back line moving into the new season.”

Christian (as he is being called) is already with the team in Bradenton, Florida and very well may feature for United in their preseason match against the Chicago Fire tomorrow night at 7pm (live stream at www.dcunited.com). The Spaniard comes to United from La Liga side Almeria whom he helped gain promotion into Spain’s top-flight last season. He played in 36 matches during the 2012-2013 season and scored six goals from his attacking defensive position.

Christian began his career with Racing Santander in the youth academy and eventually made 80 appearances for the senior side in over 5 seasons before making the move to Almeria ahead of the 12-13′ season. Christian became available after falling out of favor with Almeria this winter and was supposedly acquired on a free transfer. With this move, United has completely rebuilt their starting defense with the additional acquisitions of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell (both in Stage 1 of Re-Entry Drafts), Jeff Parke (trade) and #2 overall pick in this past MLS SuperDraft, Steve Birnbaum.

United will wrap up training in Florida over the weekend and will return to Washington, D.C. for a week of training before heading to Charleston, South Carolina for their participation in the Charleston Challenge Cup starting on Saturday, February 22nd. After three matches in seven days in the Low C0untry, United will return to D.C. for their final week of training ahead of their season-opening match at home against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, March 8th at 7pm.