In stage two of the 2017 MLS Re-Entry Draft, D.C. United selected forward Gonzalo Veron, formerly of the New York Red Bulls. The 27 year old Argentine forward can also play wide left, and largely featured as a supersub for Jesse Marsch’s side. Veron previously made his name with San Lorenzo de Almagro, one of Argentina’s bigger clubs, before moving to MLS for a transfer fee rumored to be around $2 million.
“We are excited to draft a player as talented as Gonzalo Veron. We know he’s received some interest internationally so we look forward to working with him to try to reach an agreement for 2018,” said United GM Dave Kasper in a team release.
While Veron never managed to dislodge Bradley Wright-Phillips as NYRB’s starting striker, he did find himself appearing in most games as a sub during his two-and-a-half season stint with the New Jersey-based club. That includes subbing into or starting every playoff game the Red Bulls had during his time there, and a grand total of 69 appearances between the postseason and regular season (15 starts). Veron scored 6 of his 10 career regular season goals this year (including the final goal at RFK Stadium), and added 3 of his 4 career assists.
Late in 2017, as Marsch moved his side into a 3331, Veron’s role actually grew. Despite a reputation as more of a winger — largely developed due to Wright-Phillips playing the full 90 in the vast majority of games — Veron found himself subbing in and taking over up top, with Wright-Phillips dropping into a midfield role. He finished the season by scoring 5 times in his final 10 regular season appearances (or, to make it more impressive, 5 goals in 419 minutes), then added another goal in NYRB’s knockout round win over the Chicago Fire.
For a Black-and-Red side seemingly intent on getting faster and re-establishing the kind of soccer that saw them roar up the standings in the second half of 2016, a player like Veron makes a lot of sense. Whether running the channels as a striker or slashing in from the flank, Veron is very dangerous on the counter, showing a knack for making defenders turn and chase. He also has shown a strong tendency to win free kicks; in 2017, Veron was fouled 29 times in his 897 total minutes played (playoffs included), which averages out to about 2.9 fouls suffered per 90 minutes played.
However, before United can get too deep into the weeds about Veron’s role, they’ll have to sign him to a new deal. By selecting him in the Re-Entry Draft, United has acquired his MLS rights, but that is no guarantee that he’ll actually play here. As Kasper alluded to in the quote above, there are apparently other teams looking to bring Veron in. Per MLS rules, United has one week to extend Veron a bona fide offer, and even if they meet that requirement there is still the possibility of Veron leaving the league to sign abroad.
There is also the growing issue of United’s short supply of international roster spots. Currently, United has used four of their five available spots on Luciano Acosta, Frederic Brillant, Bruno Miranda, and Zoltan Stieber. With the signing of Costa Rican midfielder Ulises Segura confirmed but not yet announced, signing Veron would leave United with one too many internationals heading into the winter transfer window. While teams only have to be in compliance come the start of the 2018 season, it’s still a situation that will have an impact on building the roster, particularly as the club has hinted numerous times that they want to pursue a Designated Player-level striker.