The Washington Post's Steve Goff is reporting that D.C. United is on the verge of trading some form of allocation money to the Colorado Rapids for Brazilian midfielder Marcelo Sarvas. United's needs in central midfield have been well-known throughout the offseason, as Perry Kitchen has opted to pursue a deal in Europe while Davy Arnaud considers retirement due to concussions. Goff's report also notes that Arnaud has left United's training camp to see a specialist, an indicator that he may not be likely to play any time soon (if at all).
Sarvas was signed by the LA Galaxy in 2012 thanks in part to his impressive displays against them in the CONCACAF Champions League while playing for Alajuelense. After consistent playing time in inconsistent roles thanks in part to the presence of David Beckham in his first season, Sarvas showed what he is capable of after moving into central midfield full-time. In the next two seasons for LA, Sarvas scored 7 goals and added 17 assists in 61 appearances, which are strong numbers for a box-to-box central midfielder.
LA traded him to Colorado during their ultimately doomed pursuit of Sacha Kljestan (the same pursuit that saw Kofi Opare land in DC for essentially a round of beers), and things did not go as well. Injured for the first portion of the season, Sarvas ended up only making 25 appearances last season for Colorado. His production fell off a cliff, too, as he had just 2 goals and 1 assist for the year. However, it is worth noting that last year's Rapids were a disaster. It would have been hard for any player in MLS to put up good numbers playing in Commerce City in 2015.
There are good reasons for United to pursue Sarvas. He's got 4 full years of MLS experience, he's a very smart player, he works hard, and he can cover a lot of ground. His passing range and vision are better than any central midfielder United currently has on their books (save possibly the unproven Julian Buescher). Sarvas is not really a replacement for Kitchen so much as an upgrade over Arnaud. He also got his US green card last season, so he would not count as an international.
Of course, there are also negatives. For one, Sarvas turned 34 in October, and United probably needs to be reducing the number of starters in their 30s. While it's easy to blame a disappointing 2015 on the Rapids, it has to be said that Sarvas isn't going to be more physically able this season than he was last year. In other words, there's a reasonable chance to expect United to get someone who can't replicate the Sarvas we saw in LA in 2013 and 2014. His salary - $360,000 base, $425,000 guaranteed - was already too lavish when he was traded to Colorado; it is an awful lot of cap space to spend on someone of his age coming off the season he just had.
Perhaps the biggest negative for fans, though, is that a trade for Sarvas would reduce the chances of a bigger move from Europe or South America. Whether that is Antonio Nocerino, the unnamed Ligue 1 player United was linked with a few weeks ago, or someone else, a move for Sarvas would mean that United would more or less have to get rid of Markus Halsti to make room for another well-paid central midfielder. With most European windows closing in the next few days, that would mean pushing Halsti out the door for nothing rather than fetching any kind of transfer fee. United would instead have to dissolve his contract so he could sign as a free agent in that scenario.
Overall this is a risky move for United, but then this team is in a risky position in central midfield. At least one signing is necessary, and if Sarvas is even 80% of the player he was in 2014 he will be very good here. However, with players in their mid-30s, age can rob you of your physical gifts quickly. Paying Sarvas a star's salary and hoping he can start over 25 games this year would have to be seen as a roll of the dice.