D.C. United completed several of their transfer goals early in the offseason, bringing in David Ousted, Ulises Segura, Junior Moreno, and Darren Mattocks to shore up several spots around the field. But as the calendar turned from January to February, both General Manager Dave Kasper and Head Coach Ben Olsen talked about how United were looking to bring in a ‘Latin American attacker’.
There was a bit of a surprise when the rumors of Yamil Asad joining came out in the beginning of February. Asad spent last year on loan with Atlanta United, from Velez Sarsfield in Argentina. Atlanta were interesting in bringing Asad back permanently, but all three parties could not come to agreement.
In stepped the Black-and-Red. United brought Asad in on a one year loan, with the option to purchase his contract at the end of the season for a fixed price. The move completed United’s attempt to revamp their offense after struggling to score goals throughout 2017.
“MLS is a league that is very attractive to me, that I wanted to be a part of again, that I felt comfortable in,” Asad told B&RU this week through an interpreter provided by the team. “When I got the offer from D.C. United, a historic club in the league, that attracted me to the club, and I wanted to be part of that.”
In Asad, United are getting a player that scored 7 goals and assisted on 13 others in his debut season in MLS, with Atlanta United. Given that he is changing teams, changing systems, and possibly changing roles by swapping one United for another, there’s no guarantee that Asad duplicates those numbers this season.
Yet, in staying in house, United bet on more of a sure thing. They could have spent more money bringing in a player with a bigger international profile, but there would have been more uncertainty in what that player would have been able to contribute in 2018.
“It’s nice to know he has those qualities -- being the set-up man or being able to score on his own,” Olsen told B&RU this week. “[We are] certainly jazzed about getting him in here, and working with him. He’s a great kid, selfless. It’s just going to take a little time now to gel with his teammates, so we can bring out some of his best qualities.”
Asad made his debut last Saturday against the Philadelphia Union, and then played another 45 minutes on Wednesday against the Jacksonville Armada. Having joined his new team while the preseason was already under way, he has some catching up to do. However, that transition is somewhat easier given that several of his new teammates are younger Spanish speakers like Asad.
“Day to day, it makes things much easier, much more comfortable, to slide in with that group,” Asad said of Luciano Acosta, Bruno Miranda, Ulises Segura, and Junior Moreno. “But at the same time, the Spanish speakers have to adapt to the club, to the league, to the country. And not only every day become a better player, but a better person.”
The signing of Asad was a bit curious given how well United seemed positioned in the area of the field where Asad can contribute. Last year with Atlanta, Asad was mainly a left winger. As United started their overhaul last summer, they brought in Zoltan Stieber and Paul Arriola, who figured to be the starters out wide for United this year.
But with the addition of Asad, United now seemingly have a situation where one player will be on the bench if Acosta, Arriola, Asad, and Stieber are all healthy. That’s not necessarily a bad situation for United, and a scenario that is more common around MLS nowadays. But it is a bit of uncharted territory for Olsen and company.
“We’re so used to in this league, having 12,13 impactful players,” said Olsen. “As the money increases, there’s going to be more really talented players that have to fight for spots. And that’s a good thing.”
The competition for playing time is something Asad is looking to. With Acosta suspended for the first game of the season, Asad will likely start against Orlando City. But after thaat, Olsen will have to decide if he wants to start all four, or rotate the players in the three attacking midfield positions.
“As long as it’s healthy, that competition is really good. It makes you better, it makes them better, it makes the team better,” Asad said through the translator. “Competition is a small detail, but it’s important to have as many pieces as we do there, just so we can work together.”
“We will have a best group. We have to figure out what that is, but if everyone is healthy in that group, that group will probably play,” said Olsen. “The players feel a little bit of that, and understand that there’s competition at almost every spot on this team. I think it’s healthy, as long as it is managed right, and the players understand their responsibilities.”