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D.C. United season review: Marcelo Sarvas

The Brazilian midfielder is out of contract, after two seasons with the Black-and-Red

We have reached the point in the season reviews in which we already know what roster decisions D.C. United have made. The Black-and-Red were the last team who was no longer playing this year to release their decisions, announcing more than two full days after the list was due to the league, on Monday afternoon. The list parsed down a group that had a largely disappointing 2017 campaign, which came on the heels of a promising end to the 2016 season.

It was not hugely surprising to see that Marcelo Sarvas was listed as out of contract with the club. 2017 was the last year of his contract with the league, one that had a base salary of $360,000 and guaranteed compensation of $425,000. That’s a lot of money for a team like United, who need to make the most of every dollar to compensate for the fact that they can’t keep up with the biggest spenders within MLS.

When Marcelo initially joined United back in February 2016, there was some value in the trade for United. They picked up a veteran midfielder, one who had success with the LA Galaxy, while the Colorado Rapids picked up a significant portion of his salary for the year. And Marcelo enjoyed a successful season with the Black-and-Red, appearing in 28 games, though a injury late in the season slowed him a bit.

However, given that he turned 35 in October 2016, there should have been some signs to United’s brass that Marcelo might not be able to keep up for another season. That’s not a knock on Marcelo - that’s just an inevitability for soccer players at that age. Yet, in the offseason, United did little to signal that Marcelo would have a reduced role with the team.

Ian Harkes was signed in January, but he and Julian Buescher wouldn’t really be competition for Marcelo’s spot, either in a 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation. Instead, it was suppose to be Jared Jeffrey and Rob Vincent who took up minutes as the deepest midfielder. But Rob Vincent injured his knee early in the season, had to have surgery, and then survived a scare with a blood clot, that cost him the entire rest of the season.

Jeffrey and Marcelo split time in the early months of the season, but it was clear that United was not getting enough out of the position. United struggled to keep the ball out of their goal, and while it wasn’t solely the issue of the defensive midfield position, it was clear that the number six spot was part of the problem.

Harkes wasn’t ever really tried out there, as he was more suited for the number eight role. Buescher was a non-factor within the team for most of the year, but would not have had much success in that role either. United allegedly flirted with some big names during the transfer window for help in that role, most notably Nigel de Jong and Gary Medel. Either would have brought more bite to the position, though by the time either would have been brought in, United were well outside of the playoff picture.

Russell Canouse was eventually brought in at the transfer deadline, but his arrival did not mean less time for Marcelo late in the season. Marcelo played 10 times in the final 12 games after Canouse joined the team, at the expense of Harkes. Harkes had suffered an ankle injury late in July, and found his place blocked by Marcelo, who was played in a more familiar role at the number eight position. That brought a modicum of success for United in August, when they won three games in a row.

But one win the rest of the way just about summed up how United’s season went in 2017.

Now, even though Marcelo is out of contract with United, it’s still possible he returns to the club for the 2018 season. He isn’t eligible for free agency, falling two seasons short of the required six in MLS. Instead, he could move to another club via the Re-Entry Draft. But there’s also still a possibility that United could bring him back. Presumably, that would have to be for a lot less money than what he made last year, and for a reduced role.

So, as usual, we throw it over to the you all to decide the all important question:


Do you want Marcelo Sarvas back for the 2018 season?

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