D.C. United needed to get younger during the secondary transfer window, given the dependency on veterans who were struggling in 2017. To accomplish that, they traded away Bobby Boswell to Atlanta United, and Lamar Neagle to the Seattle Sounders, doing each a favor. On the flip side, on the final day of the transfer window, United brought in Zoltan Stieber (28) Paul Arriola (22) and Russell Canouse (22). But their first signing, all the way back on last Friday, brought them in the youngest of the new quartet, a young player from a country with a rich tradition with United.
Bruno Miranda, who already has three caps for Bolivia despite being just 19 years old, was announced as the team’s first signing during the transfer window. He joined the Black-and-Red from Universidad de Chile, and in doing so, became the sixth Bolivian to be part of D.C. United. The two most notable, of course, being two of the best players in United’s illustrious history - Jaime Moreno and Marco Etcheverry.
“I know of them well,” Bruno said of Moreno and Etcheverry, through a translator provided by the team, after practice on Tuesday. “They are idols not only here at the club, but back in Bolivia [too] for what they did with the national team. I can only hope to do as well as they did here, and help the team as they did.”
Miranda might be a bit too young to remember all the exploits of Etcheverry and Moreno, as it’s been 14 years since El Diablo last laced up his cleats to play for United. But while attending the 1-1 draw against Toronto FC last weekend, Miranda was given an opportunity to meet up with Moreno, who is the team’s all-time leading scorer.
“I got the opportunity to meet Jaime after the match on Saturday,” said Miranda. “So it was good to talk to him, and hear what he had to say about [D.C. United]. I know what this club is about. It’s a big club.”
Miranda is somewhat of an unknown quantity though here stateside. His caps for Bolivia weren’t during last year’s Copa America Centenario, and he had relatively few games with La U. So how might he have ended up on United’s radar? Well, that’s down to his agent, who just happens to Juan Manuel Peña, a former Bolivian defender who played one year with United in 2010. That was when current head coach Ben Olsen started the year as Curt Onalfo’s assistant. He ended that season as the interim manager, becoming Peña’s last head coach.
And that’s how you get a relatively unknown Bolivian from Chile to Washington, D.C.
“Juan is a smart soccer player. It was fun to cross paths with him when I first started in the coaching world,” Olsen said of his former player and teammate after Tuesday’s practice. “He was just past his prime, but he was still an unbelievable player. It was nice to see him last week. He’s always helping us out with eyes in South America. Last month we’ve been reaching out to a lot of people across the world, just because we wanted to get some new blood in here.”
Olsen spent his formative days with the club, way back when, playing alongside Etcheverry and Moreno. He coached Moreno during his last season in 2010. Olsen, maybe more than anyone else, understands what having a Bolivian player in the Black-and-Red means, even if Miranda is currently projected as a player for down the road.
“Having a Bolivian back with D.C. United gets me pretty excited,” said Olsen. “Because I was fortunate enough to play with two of the best Bolivians ever. That community means a lot to me. I think he’s the right type of kid to succeed in this league.”
From Miranda’s side, once Peña told him about the opportunity, Miranda gave the go ahead. It took some time - we first reported about interest on Miranda on July 3rd - but eventually everything fell into place.
“My agent told me about the possibility, and I knew about the club, and I was open to it,” said Miranda. “I was excited about the opportunity, so I left it on [my agents] to get the best of the situation.”
Miranda had thoughts about the league, one that until now he’s only been able to observe from afar.
“[MLS] is really good. The soccer is at a good level. It’s different than what I am used to, it’s a lot more physical,” he said. “I’m just hoping to adapt to that, having trained for a couple of days now.”
Fitness-wise, Miranda told reporters on Tuesday that he is completely fit, ready to go. However, he claimed he was still trying to get to 100%, but said that was in relation to getting situated for a new life in the nation’s capital.
“The [getting to] 100% meant to be comfortable at the club, with my new teammates, with the staff, and the living situation in general,” said Miranda, when explaining his comfort level with his new surroundings. “Physically, I am great, and I am training fine. I’m excited to help the team. [How I fit into the team] depends on the coaches and how they want to use, but I’m available, and want to help as much as I can.”
And while Olsen talked up how much the Bolivian community meant to the club, he made sure to insist that it be known that this Bolivian is one for the future. Unlike the other players brought in during this window, Miranda won’t feature heavily during the rest of 2017. And much like Chris Durkin, who has seen time with the Richmond Kickers to go along with playing with the USA U-17s, United has a development plan in place for Miranda.
As it stands, while he might get some playing time this year for the Black-and-Red, he could also get minutes in Richmond. That playing time would be much more beneficial to a young player, rather than sitting on a bench or not making the match day squad in D.C.
“Bruno is a young, dynamic player, that has a ways to go,” said Olsen. “He’s a little different than Zoltan, in that he’s just starting his career. He needs a lot of development, a lot of coaching, but he’s a great kid, and he’s got some wonderful tools to help this club out.”
“He’s a wonderful kid. I’m looking forward to working with him. He’s going to get some minutes here, he’s going to get some minutes in Richmond,” added Olsen. “And we have a pretty good development plan in place for him to watch him grow. I like that part of this job. It’s fulfilling to see kids grow, and get onto the first team field.”