D.C. United continued a wild week today, announcing that they’ve agreed to a pre-contract with forward Taxiarchis Fountas from Rapid Vienna in the Austrian Bundesliga. Once he joins the club at the end of his contract with Rapid this summer, Fountas will be a Designated Player for United. Financial terms were not disclosed, but reports have listed the contract as being worth $7 million, making Fountas the club’s highest earner once he arrives.
“Taxi...is a player we’re really excited about as we feel he is someone who has the quality to consistently influence matches for us in the attacking third,” said United President of Soccer Operations Dave Kasper in a team press release. “We are excited to welcome him to the club and feel that his experience across many of Europe’s top leagues along with the Greek National Team will help to make an immediate impact for us going forward.”
Fountas, 26, has signed a deal that will start in July of this year, and run through June 30, 2025. Additionally, there is a club-held option to extend his contract the end of the 2025 MLS season.
“Taxi excels with the ball at his feet and has the ability to both create and finish chances. He has the experience to play anywhere across the front line or just underneath a center forward in an attacking central midfield role in Head Coach Hernán Losada’s system,” said Lucy Rushton, United’s General Manager, in the team’s announcement. “We believe his ability and personality are a perfect fit for our system and we’re eager to introduce him to the Black-and-Red.”
Fountas has 11 goals and 5 assists in 30 appearances in all competitions for Rapid Vienna this year, and has experience at multiple clubs known for high-pressing soccer broadly similar to Losada’s style of play with United. Per FBref, he is the most prolific shot-taker in the league by a healthy margin, a trait that — when paired with him being only 5’6” — points to a player whose off-the-ball movement and work rate will match with what United needs up front.
Adding Fountas on a pre-contract will mean United avoids paying a transfer fee, but it does come at the cost of not being able to put Fountas on the field until the summer window opens on July 4. United has 17 regular season games, plus up to three Open Cup games, before that date, with the earliest possible debut being a July 8 tilt with the Philadelphia Union.
The Washington Post’s Steven Goff has reported that United may still pursue a deal to pay Rapid a transfer fee to acquire Fountas immediately rather than waiting for the summer window. However, with Rapid in a tight battle to qualify for Austria’s “Championship Round,” effectively a playoff group stage used to sort the title and European spots, that might be tough. The club just agreed to move striker Ercan Kara to Orlando City today, and may view losing two starters as a bridge too far.
Either way, signing Fountas adds to an extraordinarily busy last week or so for the Black-and-Red. The club has set an MLS record in trading Paul Arriola to FC Dallas, and has also been reportedly on the verge of a club-record outgoing transfer that would see homegrown wingback Kevin Paredes move to VfL Wolfsburg. Just hours ago, they spent a substantial amount of General Allocation Money to acquire Paredes’ replacement, Brad Smith, from the Seattle Sounders. They’ve also been heavily linked to a move for Toluca striker Michael Estrada, and are also rumored to be considering trading or transferring Golden Boot runner-up Ola Kamara.
At the moment, United has two free international spots, meaning they could move the acquisition of Fountas up, sign Estrada, and be roster-compliant without further moves. United currently has 24 players under contract, and will very likely go up to 25 in the near future, with goalkeeper Jon Kempin believed to be signing a new deal with the club after his contract expired this winter.