D.C. United is close to finalizing the transfer of Canadian defender Dejan Jakovic to a Japanese club, a move that increases the likelihood that United will select a center back with the first pick in the MLS SuperDraft.
Sources close to the situation, requesting anonymity because the deal is not official, confirmed a Goal.com report that Jakovic is expecting to leave United after five seasons to join Shimizu S-Pulse in the J-League.
Club officials did not want to discuss his status. Jakovic did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Because Jakovic is under contract in 2014, United and MLS would receive a transfer fee. (United would collect two-thirds of the undisclosed figure.) His exit would also clear about $300,000 from the salary cap. He has the second-longest tenure on the roster, behind midfielder Chris Pontius, and was third on the payroll in 2013 behind captain Dwayne De Rosario ($600,000) and Pontius ($330,000).
Jakovic, 28, started just half of United’s league matches in 2013 — a result of sub-standard play, international duty and injuries. His central partner, Brandon McDonald, was dealt to Real Salt Lake in mid-season. Combined, they earned $515,000, which was about one-sixth of the club’s $2.95 million salary cap. A key factor in United’s success in 2012, the tandem was a major factor in last year’s downfall.
Bobby Boswell, reacquired via MLS’s re-entry draft last month, will anchor the heart of the backline. Ethan White (34 career league starts) and Conor Shanosky (three) are also expected to return. United acquired the rights to former Toronto and San Jose center back Nana Attakora (62 starts) in the re-entry draft but has yet to announce a contract agreement.
With the first overall pick in the Jan. 16 college draft in Philadelphia, United has been taking a close look at University of California center backs Steve Birnbaum and Christian Dean. Birnbaum (6 feet 2, 180 pounds) is a fifth-year senior and first-team all-American invited to next week’s MLS scouting combine. Dean (6-3, 198) is a junior who indicated he is planning to leave school early.
Jakovic’s imminent departure offers a timely opportunity to explore United’s payroll. Salaries and their impact on the roster remain murky in MLS, so determining definitive numbers involves guessing and estimating.
To the best of our knowledge, here is how United’s financial landscape has changed this offseason:
(2013 base salaries as applied to salary cap)
MF-F Dwayne De Rosario: $368,000* ($600,000 overall)
D Dejan Jakovic: $280,000
F Lionard Pajoy: $190,000
MF John Thorrington: $150,000
D James Riley: $140,000
MF Marcelo Saragosa: $110,000
D Dennis Iapichino: $110,000
D Daniel Woolard: $100,000
D Brandon McDonald: $100,000**
MF Sainey Nyassi: $88,000
F Carlos Ruiz: $75,000
MF Syamsir Alam: $46,000***
*Maximum cap hit for a designated player in 2013.
**Traded to Real Salt Lake mid-season but most of remaining salary remained on United’s books through end of year.
***Did not count against salary cap. (Only 20 players impact the cap. All others are considered off-budget players.)
(Estimated 2014 salaries)
F Eddie Johnson: $375,000*
D Sean Franklin: $240,000
D Bobby Boswell: $231,000
MF Davy Arnaud: $200,000
F Fabian Espindola: $150,000**
D Nana Attakora: $65,000***
*Assuming United signs him to a DP contract (current 2014 salary is about $160,000).
**Actual earnings at New York last year were higher but allocation money softened cap impact. Hasn’t signed with United yet after being selected in second stage of re-entry draft.
***Hasn’t signed with United yet after being selected in second stage of re-entry draft.
Automatic raises and re-structured contracts must also be factored. Allocation money can soften the impact of salaries on the cap. United collected allocation funds for missing the playoffs and qualifying for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League. Fees collected in a Jakovic sale could also be applied toward personnel moves.
Aside from the first overall college pick, United has a fourth-rounder (69th overall). UPDATE: DCU also has RSL’s third-rounder, acquired in the McDonald trade.
Generation Adidas players (non college seniors) do not count against the cap. If the fourth-rounder makes the squad, he would probably receive a minimum salary and not count against the cap.
The club is also browsing the international market. Scouting coordinator Kurt Morsink was on assignment in Latin America.