So much for announcing good news early in the week and bad news on Friday afternoon. Right around 5pm on Friday, D.C. United announced that they've finally addressed the glaring need at left fullback, signing 28-year-old Spanish defender Christian Fernandez Salas (who apparently just goes by Christian). Christian is apparently already in camp as you can see from the above photo, and may play in tomorrow's preseason match against the Chicago Fire.
If you believe Wikipedia, Christian arrives as a free agent, but was only released in late December. If you believe United, he was signed on a free transfer from Almeria. Either way, free is free. Per The Washington Post's Steve Goff, Christian made five starts this season for Almeria (including against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, which is something of a step up from the Columbus Crew).
One thing that jumps out right away about Christian is a crazy goalscoring rate for a left back. He scored six times in the 2012-2013 season for Almeria as they battled their way to promotion to La Liga, and 18 total goals in 149 senior appearances. Christian's reputation is that he's excellent in the air on set pieces, which is an asset United could use at both ends of the field.
Obviously United fans are aware that we don't have a particularly good taker of set pieces, but at the very least additions like Christian, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, and Steve Birnbaum will make it harder for teams to take advantage of their own free kicks. Plus, with that kind of size, the service doesn't have to be perfect. Throw in Eddie Johnson, and any ball that beats the first man will become dangerous simply by virtue of the targets United can now field.
28 years old is generally the prime of any field player's career, and Christian arrives with some impressive experience. After coming up through Racing Santander's academy and B team - during better times than today, it must be said - Christian has compiled five and a half seasons in La Liga. While he was not first choice for some big chunks of time, he still has 80+ appearances in a truly elite league. Experience at that level doesn't always guarantee success in MLS, but it's also something that you just can't get via the draft or bargain shopping in CONCACAF.
According to Spanish site futbolmls.net, Christian had offers from 2nd division clubs in Spain as well as some Greek suitors, but opted for United instead. The editor of that site, Sergio Gutierrez, was kind enough to provide first-hand knowledge of Christian via Twitter:
@chestrockwell14 he is a good player who has qualities very MLS. has a defect. its concentration. I've seen him play since he was 14 ...— Sergio Gutierrez (@Sergiogut) February 7, 2014
@chestrockwell14 accurate. So I think the MLS should I serve to highlight the lot. In lateral faults and corners, is a dominator air.— Sergio Gutierrez (@Sergiogut) February 7, 2014
@chestrockwell14 will bring much joy to the shower. A charming is a guy who really likes a good atmosphere. Marking where it goes.— Sergio Gutierrez (@Sergiogut) February 7, 2014
@chestrockwell14 I just see problem.Usually have many failures concentration. Widely criticized for that.I hope that with age it has solved— Sergio Gutierrez (@Sergiogut) February 7, 2014
Longtime readers of the site know about me and my obsession with focus, so obviously players with concentration issues might strike me personally as having a huge red flag. However, in this case I'd note that the attacks seen in La Liga are offering a more complex problem to solve than MLS teams. Christian may not have the soccer IQ necessary to be a strong left back in arguably the world's best league, but MLS teams tend to be more straightforward. What I'm trying to say is that this charge is one that would stick with some very good MLS defenders if you stuck them on a field in the Spanish top flight.
Naturally, any new signing from Europe comes with a YouTube highlight video with a song that doesn't really match the footage. Here's one for Christian from his time at Las Palmas, where he scored four goals in half a season and helped them avoid relegation:
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- Erick Thohir denies rumors about selling D.C. United
- D.C. United fall 1-0 to Toronto FC in first preseason match of 2014
- Freedom Kicks - D.C. United links for Friday 7 February 2014