D.C. United is reportedly going to sign Rapid Vienna striker Taxiarchis Fountas to a Designated Player contract. According to the Washington Post’s Steven Goff, United has agreed to a pre-contract deal with Fountas, who would join the Black-and-Red at the start of the MLS summer transfer window:
Fountas, 26, has been in good form for Rapid, producing 11 goals and 5 assists in 30 appearances across all competitions this season. That’s in line with his output in the 2020-2021 season, where 31 appearances resulted in 14 goals and 9 assists. Die Grün-Weißen’s success in the Austrian top flight has resulted in Fountas seeing time in the UEFA Champions League’s qualifying rounds as well as in the Europa League.
The 5’6” Fountas is very likely not going to lead the line for United, but rather play to one side of either Ola Kamara or Nigel Robertha in a 343 (most likely to the left, but that determination will come from Hernán Losada), or play as a second striker alongside a true no. 9 in a 3412 or 352. From a data perspective, Fountas is taking the most shots per game of any player in Austria’s top flight this season by a healthy margin:
Fountas was signed by Red Bull Salzburg in 2013 as a promising 18 year old, and as is the case with so many global soccer conglomerates, he was initially loaned out. He spent time in the Austrian second division and Greek top flight in a series of loans before eventually leaving Salzburg and signing with German third-tier club Sonnenhof Großaspach.
After a year there he went back to Austria, signing with FC St. Pölten, and did enough in one season that Rapid Vienna — a traditional power in Austria, and a club that United has gone to for past DPs Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi — signed him heading into the 2019-2020 season. The move has proven successful, as Fountas has 35 goals in 68 appearances since joining Rapid, who have qualified for European soccer in each of the last two seasons with Fountas as a regular starter.
Signing Fountas to a pre-contract would have two clear positives: United would add him for free, rather than paying an expensive transfer fee, and for 2022 at least, his DP salary would be pro-rated for half a season rather than a full year, giving the Black-and-Red more salary cap room for the time being.
However, it also means that he can’t play for United until the summer transfer window opens on July 7. That would mean going into the first 17 games of the season (exactly 50% off the regular season schedule, plus up to three Open Cup matches if D.C. advances that far) before adding a high-profile attacking player to a squad that seemed to need that kind of move at the end of last season.
Goff added to his report that United signing Fountas will not have much of an impact on the ongoing rumor linking Paul Arriola to a record-setting trade to FC Dallas. United reportedly wants to make sure they have Arriola’s replacement in place to start the season before they’ll confirm a deal potentially worth over $2 million in General Allocation Money. United has been linked with multiple possible acquisitions on that front, with CS Emelec winger Joao Rojas being the loudest of the rumors.