In a wide-ranging interview with media after Thursday’s training session, D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper once again reiterated the team’s desire to add several more players ahead of the season opener on March 3rd. While United has addressed several positions with the addition of several potential starters, the Black-and-Red are still in the market for several other players to help strengthen the roster.
That said, as the team gathered this week to start preseason training, the team United will be has become a bit clearer after the disappointing 2017 season ended with a substantial number of changes.
“Our focus was up the spine,” Kasper said about the goal to improving the team this offseason. “Starting in the back with [David] Ousted, [Frederic] Brillant, we’ve added [Junior] Moreno, [Ulises] Segura, who can play as an 8, and also out wide, and Darren Mattocks. We’ve accomplished that. We still have some GAM and TAM remaining. We want to continue looking.”
The General Allocation Money and Targeted Allocation Money that Kasper referenced has come about thanks to a flurry of trades in recent weeks. The LA Galaxy, in exchange for the rights for Perry Kitchen, sent $300,000 in GAM and TAM to United. Then came the draft day trade with Los Angeles Football Club, as United shipped away the number three draft pick for $200,000, evenly split between GAM and TAM. And most recently, United sent Eryk Williamson’s homegrown rights to the Portland Timbers in exchange for a package ($100,000 in GAM, $100,000 in 2019 TAM, a 2018 international roster slot, and a 2020 2nd round draft pick) that Kasper valued at $350,000.
Throw in the extra allocation money the club received for missing the playoffs, and United are set to make moves now. And while they have their sights set, they are keeping their options open given the sometimes volatile nature of the transfer market.
“There are still a lot of options. There’s a lot of possibilities. We’re sifting through that process,” said Kasper. “We’ve identified a number of players that we are in discussions with all the time. Things are changing by the day. We continue to look with purpose. We want to add another attacking player who can be impactful, and make the team better.”
And some of those options depend on what happen elsewhere in the world, most notably the transfer windows in Europe, CONMEBOL, and even the Middle East.
“At this point, we’ll be taking a little breath, as we’ve made quite a few moves. At the same time, we’re very actively looking in Central and South America,” United’s longtime GM said. “We’re looking in Europe. Sometimes, a lot of what happens in Central and South America are functions of the European window. The European window is still open, and the Middle Eastern window is open as well.”
Talk about acquiring potentially two more foreign players has renewed focus on United’s international spots, or lack thereof. With Luciano Acosta just getting his green card and United adding a spot from Portland in the Williamson trade, United currently have six international players (new additions Brillant, Moreno, Ousted, and Segura, joining holdovers Zoltan Stieber and Bruno Miranda) for six international slots.
However, Kasper swatted away any notion of that being a hindrance to any future move.
“There’s still an avenue to acquire more international spots,” said Kasper. “We’ve got guys who have resident applications in. We have trade discussions going on. We have the third spot in the allocation [order]. There’s going to be a number of players coming back, and there could be players that interest us in the allocation that we take. There could be players that other teams are interested in as well, and may offer good value for that [pick].”
But while the hunt for additional players continues, Kasper believes that some of the team’s issues from last year can be fixed with current players. Last season, head coach Ben Olsen talked about the need to have a consistent goalscorer that can be relied upon for 15 goals in a season. Patrick Mullins was suppose to be that guy last year, but through injuries and lack of form, he went goalless for much of the year before a late outburst.
Mattocks will help alleviate some of the scoring questions this year, but the 27-year-old’s career best is his 7 goal rookie season in 2012. Still, Kasper believes that the players currently on the team, whether they are boosted in the coming weeks with a new attacking player or not, can carry the load that players like Ola Kamara or Bradley Wright-Phillips or CJ Sapong or Christian Ramirez manage on their own.
“I do think we have the potential to have a 15 goal scorer [already on the team],” Kasper said. “But I also think this roster has, by committee, a number of players that can score goals as well.”
And while the plan is to make moves during this transfer window, the team will also keep options open for the summer. With the calendars not matching up with other leagues around the world, it can sometimes be difficult to get a player to join during the winter. That could especially be hard ahead of this summer’s World Cup, as the type of players that would really move the needle might be hesitant to change scenery when they need to be playing to ensure their spot on their country’s World Cup squad.
And in addition for United, a majority of their games will come after the start of the secondary transfer window. Meaning that if United has competently managed the first 14 games of the season, the final 20 could be aided by a big move in July or August.
“There are more options in the summer window. It’s a smaller window, but there’s a lot more options globally, said Kasper. “This is the halfway point for most leagues in the world, and there’s just not going to be a lot of movement. We will keep our powder dry for a transaction or two in the summer. But we are looking right now to find pieces to make the team better.”