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Meet D.C. United’s first batch of preseason trialists

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Two familiar faces and a national team starter are looking to earn a contract with the Black-and-Red

Yesterday saw the official start of D.C. United’s 2017 preseason, and as always there was plenty of news coming out of the halls of RFK Stadium. While the headlines were dominated by new signings like Ian Harkes and Sebastien Le Toux and a fairly optimistic prognosis for Bill Hamid, there was also the news that a small crop of trialists are vying for a spot on the 2017 roster.

As first reported by the Washington Post’s Steve Goff, United has invited former Montreal Impact and Ottawa Fury wingback Maxim Tissot, University of Maryland defender (and United academy product) Suliaman Dainkeh, and Loyola goalkeeper Matt Sanchez to join camp on trial. Former United winger Kyle Porter is also in camp, though as Goff notes, it’s to help him get fit for pursuit of a contract elsewhere while also giving United one more attacker for drills (newcomer Jose Guillermo Ortiz is not yet in camp due to his recent national team duty with Costa Rica).

Tissot, 24, had a trial with United back in July. He didn’t get a contract at the time, but he also clearly did enough to stay on the club’s radar. A product of the Impact’s academy system, Tissot is an attacking left back who can also play as a left winger if need be. Shortly after his last trial with the Black-and-Red, he signed with Ottawa in the NASL and became a full-time starter. In the league’s 20 game fall season, Tissot made 19 appearances (all starts), producing 2 goals and 2 assists. Per Transfermarkt, most of those appearances came at left midfield. He was included in the gameday squad for Canada’s 4-2 win over Bermuda over the weekend, but he didn’t end up entering the match. Tissot currently has 11 caps since debuting for Canada in 2015.

Dainkeh, a United academy player who just finished a strong four-year career at the University of Maryland, could be vying with Tissot to add depth at left back for a DCU squad that needs it. Born in Sierra Leone, the speedy 21 year old calls Reston home. He represented the US at the under-18 and under-20 levels, and actually got his first u-20 call-up at the same time as Harkes.

During his time with the Terrapins, Dainkeh became a starter alongside United’s 2017 1st round pick Chris Odoi-Atsem as a freshman. An unconventional center back pairing - Dainkeh, at 5’11”, was the tallest member of the duo - ended up working out pretty well, as a Terps team also featuring Patrick Mullins went to the College Cup final only to lose 2-1 to Notre Dame.

Following uneven sophomore and junior years that saw him make only 20 appearances (10 in each season), Dainkeh re-emerged in 2016. As a full-time starter at left back, Dainkeh played more minutes (1,918) than any other Maryland field player on a team that set a program record with 15 straight wins.

Perhaps less well known is goalkeeper Matt Sanchez, a product of United goalkeeper coach Zach Thornton’s alma mater. After transferring from Old Dominion, Sanchez took over as a three-year starter for the Loyola Greyhounds and won the Patriot League’s Goalkeeper of the Year award this past season.

Intriguingly, the 6’2” Owings Mills, MD native happens to have 12 caps for Puerto Rico’s national team (yes, Puerto Rico has a national team). Sanchez, at 22, has taken over for former NYCFC ‘keeper Josh Saunders, and in recent months has held off USL/NASL veteran Cody Laurendi to keep the #1 shirt for El Huracán Azul.

With Hamid, Travis Worra, Charlie Horton, and Eric Klenofsky all in the fold, Sanchez will have an uphill battle to secure a contract. However, United has earned a reputation for spotting unheralded goalkeepers in the college ranks (see: Worra, as well as Joe Willis), so don’t be surprised if Sanchez makes a good case for himself.