D.C. United made its first move of the offseason today, acquiring wingback Gaoussou Samaké from Ivorian club ASEC Mimosas. Samaké, 24, has signed a contract running through the end of the 2023 season, with option years in 2024 and 2025.
Samaké spent the 2021 season on loan with Loudoun United, D.C.’s USL Championship affiliate, appearing 14 times and scoring once. He has worn a DCU shirt before, though, playing 81 minutes in a 1-0 win over LD Alajuelense in this past summer’s Capital Cup.
“Samaké impressed us in his first season with Loudoun United, and we’re excited to add him to the D.C. United roster ahead of the 2022 season,” said D.C. United General Manager Lucy Rushton in a team press release. “He worked closely with our first team in training throughout 2021 and his athleticism, pace, and ability on the ball will be an effective addition in [Hernán] Losada’s system.”
Samaké is not the first player to make their professional debut with Loudoun before jumping up to the MLS level, but he is the first to do so without being a homegrown player. United has, among other things, used Loudoun as a proving ground for young players acquired on loan.
“We identified Gaoussou as a promising talent ahead of the 2021 season and we were eager to bring him on loan with Loudoun United with an eye to signing him for D.C. United,” said United Technical Director Stewart Mairs in the release announcing the move. “We worked closely with him last season to develop him as a player and he has worked tirelessly to earn this opportunity in Major League Soccer. This signing is another testament to the success of our pathway program from Loudoun United to D.C. United.”
In 1,143 minutes with Loudoun this season, Samaké was credited with one goal, one assist, 15 key passes, and 38 successful dribbles, a notable total on a team that only seemed at its best when fielding multiple threats in that department. In American Soccer Analysis’ Goals Added metric, Samaké was third on the team with a 1.00. League-wide, Samaké was the seventh-best fullback/wingback in that category.
Samaké’s status as an international may seem to complicate things for United, as they now have ten players on the books who require an international roster spot, but only six such spots available at the moment. However, with Erik Sorga on loan with VVV Venlo, two on-loan internationals (Ramón Ábila and Jovanny Bolívar) who are currently scheduled to revert to their clubs for next year, and two international spots from past trades with Colorado and Montréal set to return to the Black-and-Red on January 1, the crunch isn’t nearly as severe as it seems.
The move is also an indicator, as Mairs stated plainly, of a plan to make sure Loudoun is helping D.C. build more depth and discover young prospects. Despite their struggles in terms of wins and losses, Loudoun had some individual standouts. 19-year-old Virginia native Ted Ku-DiPietro was among the USL Championship’s leaders in chances created, and both he and defender Robby Dambrot finished in the Championship’s top 25 in ASA’s Goals Added for the season.