D.C. United announced today that the team has signed Albanian striker Hamdi Salihi to a designated player contract. Salihi has scored 163 goals in all competitions as a professional, and 142 goals in league matches. For comparison's sake, Dwayne De Rosario has scored 104. Jaime Moreno scored 149. Wait, really? Salihi has scored almost as many career goals as Moreno, and he's only 28? Yep. That's the truth.
With Salihi's signing, United's chances of doing well in 2012 have improved substantially. With the Philadelphia Union offloading their best player, and with the New York Red Bulls being the New York Red Bulls, D.C. just became a major force in the MLS Eastern Conference.
No longer do we need to worry about De Rosario being the sole contributor of goals to our scoring sheet. If Salihi is as good as advertised, he's more than capable of assuming that responsibility. Already having a relationship with Branko Boskovic won't hurt either.
According to Steven Goff of the Washington Post, Salihi is joining United on a two-year guaranteed contract, with two additional option years upon expiration. Dave Kasper noted that Boskovic actually helped recruit Salihi to join United rather than a club in Scotland or China, where he was also being pursued. D.C. had to pay a transfer fee to Rapid Vienna to bring Salihi to the States, but it might be well worth it.
And the hype has been out of control, and so well deserved. There wasn't this kind of hype around Danny Allsopp. Or Cristian Castillo. There was hype around Charlie Davies, but there were also significant questions about his recovery. There hasn't been this amount of hype or optimism about a United signing since Marcelo Gallardo!
Er, maybe that's not the best comparison.
In the highlights above, courtesy of dcunited.com, you'll see Salihi getting into good positions in the box, and finishing his chances consistently. I don't get too steamed up about seeing bicycle kick goals because I know they won't come often, but I do love to see our new forward striking every ball perfectly just inside the post. Watch it again. Every ball. Just inside the post.
Salihi is good with his head and good with his feet. This year, we should expect to see him get on the end of some Andy Najar crosses, and some De Rosario through balls. Left alone with the goalkeeper, Salihi won't be denied. At 6'-1", he's the target forward that we've been looking for.