D.C. United made a summer addition after all, adding striker Ramón Ábila via MLS waivers. The move — made possible in part by earlier news today that the club has loaned Erik Sorga to Dutch side VVV Venlo — adds depth up front for United, who will be hoping Ábila’s Boca Juniors pedigree shines through in the District in a way it did not with Minnesota United.
The move for Ábila, nicknamed “Wanchope” after former Costa Rica striker Paulo Wanchope, is a bit of an odd one even by MLS standards. The move was first reported on deadline day in MLS by Minnesota’s Eleven, but appeared to have fallen through due to the window closing without the move being completed.
Ramón Ábila is LEAVING #MNUFC and heading east to #DCU.— Minnesota's Eleven (@sotaseleven) August 6, 2021
Essentially, Boca agreed to let us find a new club for him, where he will play out the remaining months of his loan. Since all MLS clubs are single-entity (franchises), FIFA rules allow this to happen under the same loan.
However, Minnesota at some point quietly waived Ábila, and since his loan from Boca Juniors is technically to MLS rather than to an individual club, there’s no transfer or trade taking place, so the transfer window and trade deadline do not apply. United picked the 31-year-old forward up off waivers, and according to Steven Goff at the Washington Post, they’ll only have to pick up around $200,000 of his $1.1 million deal, which runs through the rest of this season.
“Bringing in a player of Wanchope’s quality will reinforce our squad with another proven goalscorer as we head into the second half of the season and continue our push for MLS Cup Playoffs,” said United’s President of Soccer Operations, Dave Kasper, in a team release. “Having depth this year is more important than ever with a condensed schedule, and we are very pleased with this addition.”
“We believe that Ramón has all the tools to be successful within our system at D.C. United,” added GM Lucy Rushton. “He has an impressive pedigree coming from Boca Juniors and he will add another element to our team going forward. In our direct, front-foot style of play, a target man who can hold up the ball and bring others into the game is integral to our success.”
Ábila was a big move for Minnesota this offseason, having scored nearly one goal every two games for Boca Juniors in league play, but things didn’t go according to plan. While the plan was for Ábila to replace Kei Kamara and Luis Amarilla as Adrian Heath’s starter, he ended up making 10 appearances and just one start in his half-season as a member with the Loons. Recently, Heath has shifted to starting Adrien Hunou or winger Robin Lod as a makeshift striker over Ábila, who left Minnesota amid reports that he wasn’t defending vigorously enough, or fit enough, for what Heath wanted.
Overall, Ábila scored twice in 263 minutes, taking 13 shots and adding 7 key passes, almost entirely as a substitute.
United, of course, is as much of a high-pressing team as there is in MLS, so those doubts will have to be cast aside. Hernán Losada will require plenty of effort without the ball out of Ábila, so if the doubts that were present in Minnesota carry on, it will be a complicated fit.
Adding Ábila required opening up an international roster spot, which United accomplished by sending Erik Sorga on loan to the Dutch second division. According to Goff, United’s plan was to loan Sorga either abroad, or down to Loudoun United for the rest of this season, with the result being a move to VVV Venlo for the rest of 2021.
Sorga had made 4 appearances, but after a quad injury, saw a portion of his season lost to trying to clear up visa issues in his native Estonia. However, after he came back, Sorga made a substitute appearance in Cincinnati before being left out of the gameday squad in the two games since.