By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 23, 2006
D.C. United's frantic offseason continued yesterday when the club traded veteran striker Alecko Eskandarian to Toronto FC, an MLS expansion team entering the league this spring, for money that will be used toward acquiring foreign talent.
The deal was announced one day after Tom Soehn was named to replace Peter Nowak as head coach and less than two weeks since 17-year-old celebrity midfielder Freddy Adu and backup goalkeeper Nick Rimando were dealt to Real Salt Lake.
United -- which had the best record in MLS this year but has been a playoff disappointment the last two seasons -- has also traded reserve defender Brandon Prideaux, waived three reserves and lost rookie midfielder Rod Dyachenko in the expansion draft. D.C. is also trying to re-sign starting midfielder Brian Carroll, who is a free agent.
"We're done making trades," technical director Dave Kasper said. "We don't have plans to do anything else and now we're focused on concluding our deals to bring in more talent."
The decision to trade Eskandarian came as a surprise. A former No. 1 overall draft pick from the University of Virginia, he was one of the team's most colorful characters and had overcome a career-threatening head injury in 2005 to return to United's starting lineup.
"It was definitely a surprise, but you could see what direction things were going with the team," said Eskandarian, whose salary this year was $130,000. "It's a little disappointing the way they handled it. No one contacted me [in advance]; it was a bit unprofessional."
The deal helped United's player-acquisition budget to swell to approximately $625,000. United has targeted several South American players and could finalize a deal with an unidentified Brazilian midfielder soon, sources close to the situation said. United has also been linked to Boca Juniors star forward Martin Palermo, but that potential deal is unlikely to occur, those sources added.
Kasper declined to comment on the search, but did say he hopes to sign two or three players from Latin America before the club regroups on Jan. 24 to begin preparing for an international tournament in February.
In MLS, teams are able to stockpile "allocations," which are essentially funds to acquire talent from overseas. Allocations are awarded to teams for, among other things, missing the playoffs and as compensation for star players who are sold by the league.
For Eskandarian, United received a partial allocation valued at $150,000. The club also acquired $275,000 in allocation money from Real Salt Lake as part of the Adu deal and $200,000 from trades with Los Angeles and New York earlier this year, Kasper said.
All of the offseason activity "is a little unnerving because we don't know of any replacements yet," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "But our front office has a good track record, and I'm excited to see who they bring in."
Eskandarian had an uneventful rookie season for United, but then scored 10 goals in 2004 and was named the MLS Cup's most valuable player after scoring twice in United's 3-2 victory over Kansas City. In June 2005, he suffered a concussion from a frightening collision with New England goalkeeper Matt Reis. After sitting out the rest of the season, he returned this year to score seven goals in 22 appearances and added a goal against Real Madrid in an exhibition.
However, he did not score the final three months of the regular season, in part because of a knee injury, and was shut out in three playoff matches. Eskandarian has one year left on his MLS contract and might explore European opportunities next winter.