United Does Some Remodeling

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

D.C. United President Kevin Payne entered the locker room at RFK Stadium yesterday morning before the club's first preseason workout and introduced himself to who he thought was an unfamiliar player.

Upon closer examination, Payne realized he was speaking to someone he knew well, second-year defender Marc Burch, who was sporting a new haircut.

"I was in new-player mode," Payne said, laughing. "It was hard to recognize a lot of guys in there."

One can hardly blame him. Unsatisfied with the way the past three years ended, United spent the brief offseason renovating the roster and turning to South America for immediate help.

Yesterday, the club began to form a new identity by introducing two Argentines (forward Franco Niell and defender Gonzalo Peralta), a Peruvian (goalkeeper José Carvallo) and a Colombian (defender Gonzalo Martinez).

Today, United will unveil its biggest catch, former Argentine World Cup midfielder Marcelo Gallardo. He comes to Washington from French club Paris Saint-Germain and is United's first acquisition under MLS's year-old designated player rule, which allows clubs to sign high-profile talent outside normal salary guidelines. Gallardo, 32, practiced with the club yesterday and will be added to the roster pending approval of a work visa.

Those additions, combined with another new goalie, Zach Wells, and a collection of college draft picks and free agents, have given United a decidedly fresh look.

"It was interesting to see how different we were," 10-year veteran Ben Olsen said. "I knew a lot of guys had left, but until you show up and look at the lockers and everything is different, it's exciting."

Six regulars -- Troy Perkins, Bobby Boswell, Greg Vanney, Brian Carroll, Josh Gros and Christian Gomez -- as well as several reserves are gone. United retained the MLS rights to Vanney and Gomez, whose contracts expired last month, and are attempting to trade them for draft picks or player acquisition funds.

Sources said Colorado is seriously interested in Gomez, the 2006 MLS most valuable player who declined United's contract extension offers for the last year. But the Rapids would probably need to reach financial terms with the Argentine playmaker before consummating a trade.

While the front office continues trade talks, Coach Tom Soehn must integrate his newcomers with a returning group that includes MLS all-time leading scorer Jaime Moreno, 2007 scoring champion Luciano Emilio, midfielders Clyde Simms and Fred, and defenders Burch, Devon McTavish and Bryan Namoff.

United does not open the MLS season until March 29, but starts a Champions' Cup series against Jamaican club Harbour View on March 12.

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