In a surprising move, D.C. United has apparently completed negotiations with both Atlanta United and Argentine club Velez Sarsfield to acquire attacking midfielder Yamil Asad on loan for the 2018 season. ESPNFC’s Paul Tenorio broke the story, detailing a two-part deal that involves sending allocation money to Atlanta, paying a small fee for the one-year loan to Velez Sarsfield, and then agreeing to a fee should United opt to sign him permanently.
Asad, 23, was signed by Atlanta last January and scored the first competitive goal in their history. He ended up producing 7 goals and 13 assists in 32 appearances, only missing two games due to suspension. Asad spent his time with the Five Stripes on the left wing, but has also played centrally as an attacking midfielder in the Argentine top flight (a rather similar profile to that of current United midfielder Zoltan Stieber).
Per Tenorio’s story, United would be sending at least half a million in allocation money to Atlanta for Asad’s MLS rights, and then $300,000 in actual money to Velez Sarsfield to pay for the one-year loan. The terms of the deal being reported also have a $700,000 buy-out clause added if United decides to make Asad’s move to D.C. a permanent one, and Tenorio says that Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) will be used to keep Asad’s total salary cap charge under the Designated Player threshold.
Asad, for his part, posted a farewell message to Atlanta soon after the story broke:
⚫️ Gracias compañeros, cuerpo técnico y a todos los fans de @atlutd por el cariño y apoyo durante todo el año. Les deseo lo mejor, siempre van a estar en mi corazón! Thanks teammates, coaching staff and all @atlutd fans for the love and support during all the year. I wish you the best, they will always be in my heart! ⚫️
Steve Goff of the Washington Post sounded a slight note of caution, reporting that the deal may not be 100% done just yet. However, as his story points out, United has previously said they intend to sign a “Latin American attacker,” and Asad fits that bill. Goff added more details to how the deal might be structured as far as the breakdown of allocation money being sent south:
Still not finalized, but DC looking to send $200k GAM and $100k TAM to ATL this year, $100k of each next year.— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) February 5, 2018
United having to make a deal with Atlanta is just part of the vagaries of being in MLS. The 2017 expansion side made a serious, lengthy pursuit of a deal that would have made Asad’s transfer permanent.
Asad was a low-profile signing for Atlanta last winter, but ended up being a critical part of their success. Thriving on a team that featured Best 11 talent in Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez, and playing opposite another elite winger in Hector Villalba, Asad immediately fit in as a complimentary part. With teams forced to back off due to the speed of Martinez and Villalba, and with all the attention Almiron drew, Asad made frequent good use of the resulting pockets of space. Often drifting in from the left, Asad also made sure to leave room for the overlappig runs of left back Greg Garza.
For United, Asad would be one more big signing in a midfield that already was the strongest department on the team. Last summer’s acquisitions of Paul Arriola and Zoltan Stieber, combined with the additions of Ulises Segura and Junior Moreno over the last month or two, had United with a comfortably playoff-caliber midfield. Adding Asad to the mix strengthens that area further, and given how costly the addition is, it stands to reason that Asad is being brought in to start.
Adding Asad will give the Black-and-Red tremendous attacking midfield depth, with arguably the four most high-profile moves the club has made in the past 14 months all coming in that part of the field. United’s schedule is probably a factor, as the construction at Buzzard Point will mean a very crowded slate from mid-July onward. Given the draining heat and humidity of a D.C. summer, having starting-quality players available to rotate in is surely a factor in such a move.
However, fans may find themselves wondering if United has not ended up overloading in one region of the field. There are still just two fullbacks on the roster, and while there are numerous trialists in camp that could bolster those positions, the roster still appears to be out of balance at this stage of the preseason. There will also be intense pressure on forwards Patrick Mullins, Darren Mattocks, and Bruno Miranda, as fans have been calling for a high-profile signing up top.
Interestingly, Asad is a figure of some controversy when it comes to United and the newcomers from Georgia. While ATL fans took to him immediately for his obvious skill and creativity as well as his work rate, fans in the DMV were left with a rather different impression after Asad caught Lloyd Sam with an elbow last April.
It would appear, however, that D.C. is willing to let bygones be bygones. Between the cost of the mooted deal and the fact that acquiring Asad will once again push United over their limit in terms of international players, it seems safe to say that there are no hard feelings about that incident from the perspective of GM Dave Kasper and head coach Ben Olsen.