The rumors surrounding D.C. United and a possible move for Designated Player Paul Arriola appear to be solidifying into a blockbuster trade with FC Dallas. According to MLSsoccer.com’s Tom Bogert, United and Dallas “have agreed in principle” to a deal that would send Arriola to Texas for a record-breaking haul of allocation money.
BREAKING: FC Dallas and D.C. United have agreed in principle to a record-breaking $2m GAM trade for USMNT winger Paul Arriola, MLSsoccer has learned.— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) January 20, 2022
New record for guaranteed or even potential trade in MLS. Could be more incentives too.
Bogert’s report notes that, in addition to $2 million in General Allocation Money (GAM), United could net more incentives for the 26-year-old attacker. The previous MLS record for an intra-MLS trade was a deal that, via incentives, reached $1.6 million going to Sporting Kansas City in the deal that sent Dom Dwyer to Orlando City in 2017. Dallas, who just sold homegrown striker Ricardo Pepi to FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga, is now flush with cash and has apparently beaten suitors in MLS (possibly including expansion side Charlotte FC) and Liga MX (with Club América reported to have made multiple offers).
In trading Arriola within MLS, United may be facing a situation where the other side of the equation is, on paper, less lucrative than what a giant club like América could have offered via transfer fee. However, MLS rules do not allow teams to turn 100% of the transfer fees they collect for non-homegrown players towards their roster, and United would have significantly less money to apply to their 2022 squad selling a player’s rights abroad when compared to getting millions in GAM.
Of course, the choice may not have been entirely in their hands, with the Washington Post’s Steven Goff reporting that Arriola may have pushed for a trade within MLS rather than a move to Mexico:
Hearing the same things. Arriola withdrew interest in going to Club America late last night and wanted an MLS destination only, I'm told. #dcu https://t.co/cMNdct3V45— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) January 20, 2022
Losing Arriola would leave United in need of a substantial replacement up front. In Hernán Losada’s system, Arriola’s ability to high-press effectively, his direct running off the ball, and his work rate are invaluable. On top of that, United spent all of 2021 bumping up against the fact that without multiple Designated Players on the field, they were going to be at a disadvantage in a league where the teams with successful DP signings tend to win the trophies.
Arriola, if he were to depart, would finish his time with the Black-and-Red having made 89 appearances in regular season play (83 starts), scoring 20 goals and adding 16 assists. Under Losada in 2021, he had his most efficient season, putting up 6 goals and 4 assists in 20 appearances and being near the very top of league metrics for wingers in combined expected goals and expected assists.
However, those numbers do come with one indicator as to why United would consider trading away a well-known USMNT player who has been successful in the District. Between injuries, national team duty, and an ill-fated 2021 loan to Swansea City in the English Championship, Arriola never managed to play more than 79.5% of the minutes available over a full season.
With the USMNT facing a busy year of qualifying leading up to the World Cup in November and December, his availability would have been an issue, even if injuries were not a factor. In 2021, Arriola missed eight games due to injury, and five more due to international duty. He and fellow DP Edison Flores shared the field for just 269 minutes last season.
According to Goff, United is not prepared to make the deal until they have already secured a DP as a replacement, which would match both the fanbase’s demands and some public statements from Losada to add investment to the roster. Thus far, United’s offseason moves have involved players departing, with only homegrowns Jeremy Garay and Ted Ku-DiPietro and Loudoun United success story Gaoussou Samaké confirmed as additions to the roster for 2022.