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D.C. United sign OH Leuven goalkeeper Rafael Romo

A long-rumored addition sees the Venezuela ‘keeper join the Black-and-Red

Club Brugge v OH Leuven: Jupiler Pro League Photo by Plumb Images/Getty Images

D.C. United today announced the completion of a long-rumored move, signing goalkeeper Rafael Romo from Belgian side OH Leuven. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, though United did confirm that Romo’s contract runs through the end of the 2023 season, with an option for 2024. Romo, 32, will officially join up with the Black-and-Red once his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) is cleared and he receives his U.S. work visa.

“We’ve been monitoring Rafael for a good period of time and we’re happy to bring in a player with as much professional experience as his,” said United GM Lucy Rushton in a team press release. “We believe he will be a great addition to our current group of goalkeepers, providing additional healthy competition to the group. We want to welcome him to the District and look forward to having him at the club.”

“Rafael is an experienced goalkeeper that will help solidify our depth at the goalkeeper position,” added United President of Soccer Operations Dave Kasper. “We look forward to integrating him with the group in the coming week.”

Romo is a longtime member of the Venezuelan national team, picking up 13 caps over the years. Most recently, he played the full 90 in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying loss at Ecuador in November 2021. Professionally, after breaking through in 2007 with Llaneros de Guanare EF in his home country, Romo made the jump to Italy, signing with Udinese at 19 years old.

However, Udinese ended up loaning him back to Venezuelan clubs, with Romo spending a year with Estudiantes de Mérida followed by three seasons with Mineros de Guayana, where he became a full-time starter. Udinese finally loaned him out to Watford in 2015, but he didn’t make an appearance before his contract ended.

Departing Udinese, Romo moved to Cyprus, playing for AEL Limassol for a season and moving over to APOEL FC. APOEL ended up sending him on loan to Beerschot, where he played alongside former United head coach Hernán Losada during the 2017-2018 season, which turned out to be Losada’s final season as a player. Since then, Romo has been first choice for Danish side Silkeborg IF, and leaves OH Leuven having made 45 appearances since joining the club in 2020.

Rumors of Romo joining United extend back over three weeks, but up until today the Black-and-Red have forged ahead with only Bill Hamid and Jon Kempin under contract (though, per Steven Goff at The Washington Post, Romo has been in the area for some time). Hamid’s recent hamstring injury meant Kempin has played in both of the club’s last two games, an Open Cup win over Flower City Union and a 3-2 victory over New England this past weekend. In both games, Loudoun United’s Luis Zamudio has been his back-up on a temporary contract; MLS rules dictate that any affiliate club hardship call-up can only be offered four short-term deals in a year before the MLS side is required to offer that player a full senior team contract.

While it’s unclear whether Romo will receive his visa in time for Saturday’s trip to face the Columbus Crew, United will also have a roster hurdle to clear in order to add him to the active roster. Adding Romo, who will require an international roster spot, takes DCU up to ten internationals under contract. Kimarni Smith is on loan with Loudoun, but United only has eight international spots for the remaining nine players. Black and Red United has requested comment on that front, and will update this piece with any news. It is possibly noteworthy that Gaoussou Samaké played for Loudoun on Sunday in a 2-1 loss to Birmingham Legion FC.