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D.C. United and the upcoming transfer window

Lots of folks have been assuming D.C. United would not re-sign Branko Boskovic, freeing up considerable cap room to sign a replacement and maybe another defender. However, Boskovic's recent play is definitely changing that discussion. Assuming the team re-signs Boskovic, the question is whether the team can bolster its depth or fill any holes. When Lewis Neal was being signed Steven Goff kept reporting that Neal would fill the last roster slot, This was very curious because the team only had 25 players (and Conor Shanosky was going out on loan, and then Lance Rozeboom was hurt). I asked Goff about this, but he said the team was telling him they had no more room. Now, there have been rumors about a pair of Hondurans connected to DCU, and this week the team is giving Kenny Mansally a trial. I have developed a theory that would explain all … except for cosmic mysteries like dark energy.

Even counting Rozeboom and Shanosky, who is out on loan, United has only 26 players. League rules allow up to 30, but the team would probably only want 28. Leaving the last two slots open gives them more cap money ($35,000 for each). At the very least, United has two open roster slots they ought to fill. If Rozeboom and Shanosky don't get added, it's four slots. The real question is about cap room and the salary budget roster, where there are significant unknowns.

It's possible that whomever put together the roster on DCU's site doesn't know what they're doing. Right now, they list 15 Salary Budget players. A team is supposed to have between 18 and 20, or they are penalized. Many have presumed at least one error on the site, because Perry Kitchen is still listed as "Off Budget - GA." The team protected him in the expansion draft, meaning he was no longer GA. It also seems unlikely that Nick DeLeon is off-budget, but not impossible. I believe Chest was certain both are in the budget, but I am now convinced that both players are off-budget -- that the roster list is correct. I will explain more below,

In either case, or even both, United would still be below the minimum number of Salary Budget players. According to the rules, "A minimum salary budget charge will be imputed against a team’s salary budget for each unfilled senior roster slot below 18." So, keeping players off-budget while there are open salary budget slots seems odd, especially if you have players making league minimum.

Goff kept reporting that DCU was telling him when they signed Neal that he was the last roster player -- seemingly that they had no more cap room. It could be something else, since teams are limited to 10 off-budget players. This is something I've just figured out in seeing that Neal is off-budget. If DeLeon is off-budget, the team has been hit with two $44,000 salary budget charges for unfilled roster slots. If Kitchen is also off-budget, then it's actually three such charges. My new theory is that United has filled all its off-budget slots, including DeLeon and Kitchen. That's what they meant when they told Goff they were done ... that they couldn't sign any more players. They have filled all 10 off-budget slots.

Now, I don't know about how pro-rating of the salary budget charge might work, but it seems to me that United has at least three open salary budget slots. The reason for this is unknown, but it might be that they are pretty much at the cap limit. They used allocation money to pay down Dwayne De Rosario's salary, but that could just mean they wanted to avoid the big tax for signing a third DP. It doesn't mean they're at the cap limit. Still, that seems a reasonable assumption. Otherwise, they would have listed one of those off-budget players on the budget, to get the league to pay the salary. Even if they are at the cap limit, the fact that they are being charged $44,000 for each unfilled slot should mean that the team could add someone to the salary budget roster at that price (or, at least, pro-rated.) So, if Mansally is ready to accept the league minimum, I think they've got a slot for him (and for two others).

Now, this brings up questions about rumors of talks with various Honduran players. They're not likely to take the league minimum. The team could shift around some off-budget players to the budget roster to accommodate a signing that otherwise would bust the cap. It's also possible there is still some cap room, It might even be that the team has been looking to add a "Young DP" (cap charge of "$150k -- no discount for midseason signing) or a U23 DP (cap charge of $200k, but there isn't any express language about what it would be for a midseason signing). They may have been saving cap room for such a signing, perhaps waiting on a new investor to cover the balance of the salary which the team would have to pay directly. They may be able to keep Boskovic and still sign someone else. I dunno.

The major obstacle to signing Mansally or any other international may be the lack of any international roster slots. Of course, the team could trade a draft pick to acquire a slot. Most teams have at least one unused slot. Some have two open slots. Ya gotta wonder what the team has in mind with Mansally. Either they are planning to make a deal to get another international slot, or they are exploring options in case an international roster slot opens up soon.

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