WASHINGTON, D.C. – With less than a third of the 2017 season remaining, D.C. United opened its checkbook and reinforced the roster by adding four new players before the transfer deadline to make a final push for postseason play this year.
Currently sitting in the last place in the Eastern Conference and 16 points out of the final playoff spot, United (5-15-4), one of the more frugal teams in the past, signed young attacking midfielders from Europe and South America while bringing home American talent playing abroad.
All the deals took months of planning and negotiating. Nevertheless, all were officially completed one week before the league’s transfer window which closed on Aug. 9.
“I don’t even know how many days it took to pull off and get these deals over the line,” General Manager Dave Kasper said. “We’ve accomplished our goals, which was to bring talent to the club, bring players in their prime and bring players with a significant upside.”
United’s prize acquisition was the transfer of U.S. National Team midfielder Paul Arriola, 22, from Mexican side Club Tijuana for more than $3 million. The Chula Vista native, who has made 11 appearances for the United States, becomes the club’s second designated player, set to make north of $1 million a season as part of his multi-year deal.
“I’m asking to get on the field as quickly as I can and help one game at a time,” Arriola said. “I’m here to help the team win. That’s my job. It’s always going to be about the team.”
United also acquired Pennsylvania product and winger Russell Canouse, 22, from German team TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and signed Hungarian international Zoltan Stieber. Lastly, the team announced the addition of Bolivian forward Bruno Miranda, 19, on loan from South American side Club Universidad de Chile.
The new midfield signings will look to help United’s struggling offense, which has scored a league-worst 19 goals this year.
All four players were introduced at a press conference and an open practice at RFK Stadium on Aug. 10. Fans arrived early for the event, hoping to catch a glimpse of the new talent arriving at the club.
“It feels really good to be here and see all the people from my country (at the open practice), makes it feel so much like home,” Miranda said. “It’s really important for me to feel comfortable, just like any other player, and to see the supporters before a game is a good thing.”
The moves are also a sign the owners are willing to spend money before the club moves to its new stadium, Audi Field, next summer.
With possible free agent pickups before the Sept. 15 roster freeze deadline, the Black-and-Red is hoping the final additions to its roster will help make a final push for the playoffs.
Despite a 1-1 draw against league leaders Toronto FC on Aug. 5, United wasn’t able to maintain its momentum this past weekend at home against Real Salt Lake. It was the club’s eighth straight game without a victory, a cause of concern for United’s rapidly diminishing playoff dreams. Head Coach Ben Olsen hopes the new additions will gel quickly with the current squad.
“It gives everybody around here a jolt of energy, which is good, especially with the way the season has gone,” Olsen said. “As quickly in this league as you can spiral down, you can float forward. I’ve been in this league too long not to think that we can make a run at this.”