In the first stage of MLS’s re-entry draft last week, D.C. United bolstered its porous defense. In the second stage today, United continued addressing the attack, selecting veteran forward Fabian Espindola with the first overall pick.
The move comes one day after acquiring U.S. national team forward Eddie Johnson from the Seattle Sounders for allocation funds.
The Argentina native, 28, served with Real Salt Lake for six seasons before moving to the New York Red Bulls last winter. He compiled 28 goals and 12 assists the past three years, including nine and two respectively in 28 league matches (23 starts) in 2013.
“We were hoping he wouldn’t be taken in the first stage,” General Manager Dave Kasper said. “He’s a competitor, he’ll run at defenders and can finish. He has a work rate, which fits into [Coach Ben Olsen's] approach.”
Before adding Espindola to the roster, however, United must reach contract terms. The club has seven days to tender an offer. Kasper said the sides have already begun negotiations and “we’re cautiously optimistic.”
Unlike the first stage, teams do not inherit terms of the current deal. Espindola counted $150,000 against the salary cap this past season. Typically, players selected in the second stage settle for a lower figure or seek employment outside the league. Should Espindola reject United’s offer, the club would retain his MLS rights.
Espindola is a permanent U.S. resident and does not count against the international roster limit.
In the second round, United claimed Canadian defender Nana Attakora, 24, who began his career with Toronto FC and played for San Jose last season after a year in Finland. The center back, who earned $61,000 this past season, has represented Canada on all national team levels and earned five senior caps. The sides have begun contract talks and “we’re hopeful we’ll get something done,” Kasper said.
Last week the club selected defenders Sean Franklin (Los Angeles) and Bobby Boswell (Houston) in the first stage of the re-entry draft. United also acquired veteran midfielder Davy Arnaud in a trade with Montreal.
The addition of two experienced forwards — Espindola and Johnson — plus an attack-minded midfielder (Arnaud) may diminish United’s chances of selecting Maryland’s Patrick Mullins with the first overall pick in the Jan. 16 college draft. Mullins, who scored 19 goals in leading the Terrapins to last weekend’s College Cup final, is a forward projected to also play in a wide midfield attacking role.
Kasper, however, said the moves will not impact their draft decision. “You need depth at every position,” he said, noting Johnson will miss at least seven league games while on U.S. World Cup duty. Mullins’s versatility as a forward or wide player adds to his appeal.
Also today, Toronto FC selected 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario, 35, who was released by United this fall after 2 1/2 seasons. Toronto is his hometown and he had a tour with TFC in 2009-11.
United’s Daniel Woolard and James Riley were not selected and are free to negotiate with any club, including D.C. However, United does not seem likely to approach either one.
Meantime, midfielder John Thorrington, whose option was not exercised but withdrew from the re-entry draft, will not return to Washington, Kasper confirmed. He appeared in 14 regular season matches and started 12. Thorrington, 34, opted out of re-entry in order to better dictate his next — and probably last — destination in a pro career that began some 15 years ago.
United is not expecting to make any additional roster moves between now and the college draft, when trade talk heats up.
“We’ve made a lot of moves in the last week, so we’re going to step back for now,” Kasper said.
He did say, however, that scouting coordinator Kurt Morsink is on assignment in Central America.