D.C. United today announced the acquisition of defender Brendan Hines-Ike, who will join the Black-and-Red on a one-year loan from Belgian top-flight side KV Kortrijk. Further terms of the deal, including whether or not United holds a purchase clause, were not announced, but United does reportedly hold such an option to make the move permanent.
Rumors of the move, first reported by Steven Goff of the Washington Post, came up over the past few weeks. In a recent piece, Goff noted that Hines-Ike has already arrived in D.C. to begin his Covid-19 quarantine period before joining the opening stages of United’s first preseason under new head coach Hernán Losada.
In a club press release, United GM Dave Kasper said Hines-Ike’s “defensive instincts and technical ability have been on display since he first became a professional in 2016 and we’re excited to add his experience and skillset to our backline as we continue to build our roster.”
Hines-Ike, 26, is likely to compete for regular minutes regardless of whether Losada wants to play with three or four in the back. United entered 2021 with just three center backs (Steven Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, and Donovan Pines), but has since signed first round pick Michael DeShields to an MLS contract. As United found out last year, though, having just one spare center back can be a major problem, especially with emergency options Russell Canouse and Joseph Mora both needed elsewhere.
In his final half-season with Kortrijk, Hines-Ike started just eight of mid-table Kortrijk’s 29 matches up to this point in the season. According to FBRef, after not getting a second in their first 15 league matches of the current season, Hines-Ike broke into the starting lineup on December 12, starting eight straight games before then returning to the bench in their last six (though at least some of those absences may be related to ensuring that he avoided an injury that could have hampered this move). He was also an unused substitute on 12 occasions.
Position-wise, Hines-Ike is a center back who can play right or left back in a pinch. The above FBRef data says that his last appearance for Kortrijk was at left back, but you’d have to go back to November 2018 to find his last appearance anywhere other than center back. During this past season, the available formation data points to Kortrijk using him almost exclusively as part of a back three.
Hines-Ike was a USYNT player at the under-18 level before spending four years as a collegiate starter at Creighton and South Florida. While he was drafted by Montreal in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, the reality was that he had already signed a pro contract with Swedish club Örebro SK (Montreal no longer holds Hines-Ike’s MLS rights, so United will not owe the club formerly known as the Impact any compensation).
After largely appearing as a substitute during his first pro season, the Denver native became first choice at Örebro in 2017, eventually compiling 59 total appearances before Kortrijk reportedly spent a club record $750,000 to bring him to Belgium. He played in 18 of Kortrijk’s 40 league matches in the 2018-2019 season, but entered the 2019-2020 season as a starter, appearing in all but one of Kortrijk’s first 13 games. However, from there two separate thigh injuries cost him most of the rest of the year, as he made two more appearances (one start, and a one-minute cameo off the bench) for the rest of the season.
Hines-Ike pushes United’s total number of players under contract up to 26, though with Paul Arriola on loan at Swansea City until sometime in May and Felipe Martins unlikely to return from a torn ACL until sometime in the summer, there is still plenty of room (and need) for additions. The Black-and-Red are reportedly still negotiating with Levski Sofia forward Nigel Robertha, while Goff previously reported that the club is pursuing a move for Venezuela u20 forward Jovanny Bolivar.
Last week, Goff reported that United “is close” to bringing Lucas Rodriguez back to the club, though since then Argentine outlets have said that he has picked up an adductor injury. Draft pick Logan Panchot remains in the mix for a first-team deal, while former United players Andy Najar and Rodney Wallace are reportedly going to be in camp on trial.