All-American Turns Down United's Offer

Friday, February 16, 2007

Jay Needham, a Southern Methodist University all-American who was drafted by D.C. United to bolster its thin defensive corps, has turned down a contract offer and instead plans to sign with a minor league team in Puerto Rico, United officials said yesterday.

Needham, a finalist for college soccer's player of the year award last season, was chosen in the third round (32nd overall) of the Jan. 12 MLS draft and expected to become a key defensive reserve following United's decision to trade veteran Brandon Prideaux.

He spent the last three weeks in United's training camp, but departed yesterday. Needham wanted a senior roster contract, which would have paid him at least $30,000, but United was only willing to offer a developmental deal worth $17,700. (Some MLS developmental players earn $12,900.)

It is unclear how much he was offered by the Puerto Rico Islanders, who play in the United Soccer Leagues' top division, but sources familiar with USL and MLS pay scales believe it was approximately $35,000.

"We offered him a developmental contract as a starting point," United technical director Dave Kasper said. "If he did well in the future, then we would upgrade him. . . . We will continue to monitor his progress for future consideration."

USL teams are unaffiliated with MLS and hold their own draft to acquire rights to players. United will retain Needham's MLS rights. Needham could not be reached for comment. Another United draft pick, goalkeeper Luis Robles from Portland, si gned with a German club last month.

Sources said United has begun pursuing defensive help, possibly from overseas.

Meantime, United announced that all-star goalie Troy Perkins has signed a new contract. Terms were not announced, but his base salary is expected to rise to $90,000 from $29,400.

-- Steven Goff

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