Days after a whirlwind of moves, D.C. United got back into the swing of things today, officially announcing that Deportivo Toluca and Ecuador striker Michael Estrada will join the club on a one-year loan. United’s announcement adds that the club will have the option to purchase Estrada’s contract at the end of this season. While the price tag on that option was not announced, the Washington Post’s Steven Goff reported that the figure is “about $5 million.”
“Bolstering our attack has been a priority for us in the offseason and we’ve been closely monitoring the possibility of bringing Michael to the club,” said United President of Soccer Operations Dave Kasper in a team press release. “He is a dangerous #9 who we believe will be a great addition to our attacking unit, and we’re excited to get him on loan for the 2022 season.” United GM Lucy Rushton added that “We believe Michael has the quality to be a top goal scorer in our league. He’s a dynamic player who brings quality on the ball and an aerial presence and threat.”
Estrada, 26, has been linked with United for roughly two weeks, and since then has scored for Ecuador in a 1-1 draw where his new teammate Edison Flores scored Peru’s equalizer. Estrada has not seen much success with Toluca this season, going goalless in just 575 minutes (out of a possible 1,890). However, in the 2020-2021 season he scored 11 times in 37 appearances (28 starts), and he is Ecuador’s leading goalscorer in World Cup qualifying (6 goals in 15 appearances). A five-game unbeaten run has seen Ecuador climb to third place in the CONMEBOL standings, and simply avoiding defeat in their final two matches will be enough to clinch a spot in Qatar.
Before playing for los Diablos Rojos in Liga MX, the 6’1” Estrada lead the line in the Ecuadoran top flight with CSD Macará in two spells sandwiching stops at CD El Nacional and Independiente del Valle. Estrada helped Macará and Independiente to continental competition, scoring goals in the Copa Sudamericana with the former and playing in the Copa Libertadores with both clubs.
Even with Paul Arriola, Kevin Paredes, and Erik Sorga all leaving the club, the Black-and-Red’s list of potential options to play up front is lengthy. However, most of that group (including DP signing Taxiarchis Fountas, who is slated to arrive in the summer transfer window) is more likely to see time either as a second forward, a wide forward, or underneath a strike pairing. Estrada, an out-and-out striker, will join a group of true no. 9s that includes Ola Kamara and Nigel Robertha.
That’s significant competition for playing time among three players that are all reportedly either making seven figures (Kamara), required a seven-figure fee to come to MLS (Robertha) or will require a seven-figure fee to make their move to MLS permanent (Estrada). However, lingering reports that United may end up trading or transferring Kamara — the 32-year-old Golden Boot runner-up will be out of contract at the end of the season — may leave Estrada and Robertha battling for one spot in a 343 or 3421, or trying to forge a strike partnership during the first half of the MLS season.
Adding Estrada takes D.C. up to seven internationals, with the club holding eight such spots. They have 26 players under contract in total, with attention likely to now turn to a central midfield group that is thin in the aftermath of both Felipe Martins and Júnior Moreno being out of contract. Felipe just signed with Austin FC yesterday, while Moreno’s status remains unclear. A Venezuelan report yesterday said he has an offer from Argentine side CA Tigre, while there has been no real movement on United’s side to bring the defensive midfielder back for a fifth season.