D.C. United are getting their man a little earlier than scheduled after reaching a deal with Rapid Wien to sign Taxiarchis Fountas immediately rather than waiting for his contract to end. United had signed the Greek international to a pre-contract, effectively meaning he would begin playing for United as soon as this summer’s transfer window opened, but the Black-and-Red and Rapid agreed to a reported $400,000 transfer fee to accelerate the 26 year old’s move to MLS up to today.
Fountas, who will wear the number 11 shirt, will join Edison Flores as a Designated Player for United, while multiple reports when he first signed declaring that he would be the club’s highest-paid player. United’s interest in acquiring Fountas as soon as possible was well known, with United GM Lucy Rushton making it clear in an interview with Black and Red United last month. The new terms also have shifted Fountas’ contract length, with the attacker now on a deal that runs through 2024, with a club-held option for 2025. Previously, United had said the terms of his contract ran to the summer of 2025, with the option to extend for the back half of that season.
For United, spending some money to make a move that was going to happen for free might not seem to make a lot of sense. However, between the American men’s transfer window ending in early May and the summer window not opening until the start of July, United would have played 17 games before they could legally field “Taxi” in competition. By moving the deal up, they simply need to settle Fountas’ work visa and his International Transfer Certificate, which is expected to take roughly three weeks.
With an April 9 game at NYCFC moved to August due to the MLS champions advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, United will likely only play one more game before Fountas is available for selection, meaning they’ll have only played 5 games on the season before having him in the fold rather than fully 50% of their 2022 MLS schedule.
“We are extremely excited to accelerate the acquisition of Taxi,” said United’s president of Soccer Operations Dave Kasper in a team release announcing the deal. “We feel as though he is a player who is capable of making an immediate impact on the team and it was important for us to get him here as soon as possible.”
“This is a massive step by the club to ensure that Taxi is able to make an immediate impact on team results early in the 2022 season,” said Rushton in the same release. “We have started the season positively and the addition of Taxi in Hernán’s system will add a crucial spark for us on the offensive side of the ball. Taxi joining the squad sooner than planned will better equip us to make a push for the playoffs this season.”
Fountas has spent his career in the Austrian and Greek top flights. During three seasons with Rapid Wien, he has been prolific, scoring 45 goals and adding 21 assists in 90 total appearances, including one against Arsenal in the Europa League. He made his professional debut with AEK Athens at 16, eventually moving to Austria when Red Bull Salzburg acquired at the start of the 2013 season. Salzburg sent Fountas on a series of loans to SV Grödig, Panianios GSS, and Asteras Tripolis.
After his contract with Salzburg ended, Fountas spent one season in the German 3.Liga before returning to the Austrian Bundesliga with SKN St. Pölten in the summer of 2018. Fountas did enough there as a regular starter, scoring four goals, to end up making the jump to a traditional power in Rapid Wien, joining them at the start of the 2019 summer window.
Adding Fountas, who has 8 caps for Greece and last appeared for them in a September World Cup qualifier against Kosovo, will be expected to sharpen United’s attack considerably. After seeing Paul Arriola and Kevin Paredes depart on lucrative transfer fees, United’s attack has lost some of the potency it showed in 2021, where the Black-and-Red were one of MLS’s highest-scoring offenses (with underlying data pointing to their success being sustainable). Through four games in 2022, DCU is tied for 19th in shot-creating actions (68), 16th in expected goals (5.1), and tied with with six other teams for 11th in actual goals (5).
The move brings United up to nine internationals under contract. Forward Kimarni Smith is on loan with Loudoun United, leaving D.C. with eight international players and eight international roster spots. Once he received his visa and ITC, Fountas figures to jump into the lineup alongside Flores, playing underneath or off to one side while one of Ola Kamara, Michael Estrada, or Nigel Robertha mans the center forward position.