DC United announced today that they have acquired Uruguayan defender Rodrigo Brasesco on loan from Racing Club de Montevideo. Brasesco, who is said to be at home playing either center back or right back, was first choice for Racing in both the Uruguayan league and in the 2010 Copa Libertadores. Despite the club's history of signing South American players, Brasesco is the first Uruguayan player to ever play for United.
Head coach Ben Olsen, in this video interview with CSN's Russ Thaler, referred to signing "a center back" in the near future, and it's safe to assume he meant Brasesco. That might give fans a hint as to which position Brasesco is expected to compete for time at. With likely right back Jed Zayner receiving praise from Olsen at the tail end of last season, and veteran Devon McTavish also available there, it seems like Brasesco will be joining the battle for time at center back with Julius James, Dejan Jakovic, and homegrown signing Ethan White.
Read on to see a couple things that jump out about this move.
The first thing I noticed when looking at the announcement on DC's website is that Brasesco appears to be wearing the captain's armband for Racing. For a team that needs defensive leadership, this might be a good sign. Obviously it's very early, and there's the possibility that the language barrier will be an obstacle, but Brasesco could be the leader our young defense has needed for some time now.
Of course, the same hopes were placed on Gonzalo Peralta - who had the added skill of being fluent in English when he arrived - and we know how that went. Signing players that fit the profile of what you need is one thing; finding players that are actually good enough version of what you need is quite another. I remember being quite pleased that we had addressed our need for a left midfielder last offseason. Unfortunately, Christian Castillo was not able to adapt to MLS in the least, and the signing was a disaster. Hopefully, Brasesco fits the profile and has the requisite ability.
The second thing I noticed, this time in the highlight video DCU put together, is that Brasesco has some serious aerial ability. Not only does he have what looks like a high vertical leap, he also has good timing (which is the most crucial element in winning headers). At 5'10", he would appear to be small for a center back. However, we've seen smaller MLS center backs succeed via smarts and timing (think former New England Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst). With the strength and size our other center backs possess, there is reason to believe that Brasesco doesn't have to be Goliath to get the job done.
A third note, also timing-related, is that Brasesco appears to be a confident tackler. He's not the kind of defender who waits too long to step up and get the ball. That's a big thing in MLS, where many good offensive players don't necessarily make the kind of lightning-fast decisions we see at elite levels. If Brasesco makes the decision to tackle the ball just a split second more quickly than opposing players decide to shoot, pass, or take their next touch, he's going to be very tough to get past. Again, this is from a highlight video so it's no guarantee, but you've got to judge what you can see in cases like this.
The final thing that I couldn't help but notice is that most of the highlights seem to point to Brasesco playing on the right for Racing. That's not too big of a deal; it could just be that Racing was thinner at right back than at center back. It could also be that they were playing with a back three. I wouldn't read too much into it due to the lack of information concerning the issue, but it is something to take note of.
No matter which position Brasesco plays, this seems to point to DC drafting midfielders and forwards during Thursday's draft. With eight defenders (Brasesco, James, Jakovic, White, Zayner, McTavish, Marc Burch, and Daniel Woolard) in place and a roster with up to thirty spots, I suspect we will only pick up one more defender. With Barry Rice coming back in the preseason, I suspect we'll see a series of defensive trialists in camp. Specifically, the players we'll be looking at will be either undrafted college players or younger guys from the NASL and USL ranks.