D.C. Uses Quirk to Land Kirk

Midfielder Quavas Kirk, right, is tall and fast but brings unrefined skills to D.C. United.
Midfielder Quavas Kirk, right, is tall and fast but brings unrefined skills to D.C. United. (By Jae C. Hong -- Associated Press)
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Saturday, February 16, 2008

For the second time in a week, D.C. United has taken advantage of a quirky MLS rule and traded the rights to a veteran player who was no longer under contract.

United sent defender Greg Vanney's rights to the Los Angeles Galaxy yesterday for 19-year-old midfielder Quavas Kirk. Last week United dealt midfielder Christian Gomez's rights to the Colorado Rapids for a 2009 first-round draft pick and future considerations.

United had no intention of retaining either Vanney or Gomez -- the club signed replacements from South America several weeks ago -- and allowed their contracts to expire. But because free agency does not exist in MLS, D.C. maintained their league rights and could request compensation. (MLS players no longer under contract are free to sign with foreign clubs without league interference.) Vanney, 33, earned $236,000 last season -- more than double the league average -- and was expected to accept a pay cut to return to the Galaxy. He played for Los Angeles from 1996 to 2001.

United acquired Vanney last summer from Colorado for defender Facundo Erpen, and although he brought leadership and stability to the back line, he was not able to solve the club's late-season defensive issues.

Kirk skipped college to sign with MLS in 2005, and after being unavailable much of his rookie season with injuries and U.S. under-17 national team commitments, he started 10 regular season games and played in 22 matches in 2006. Last year he had five starts and 11 appearances. An injury prevented him from playing in the Under-20 World Cup in Canada.

Kirk, who is 6 feet 1 and fast but with unrefined skills, has played several positions during his youth and MLS careers, but his best role seems to be on the right side of midfield. United lacked depth on the flanks last year and is in need of reinforcement, particularly following Ben Olsen's offseason surgery on both ankles. Olsen said yesterday that he will undergo an additional procedure next week. Club officials expect him to be sidelined at least four additional weeks.

Kirk earned $111,000 last year, but because of his age and inexperience, his contract will not count against United's salary cap.

-- Steven Goff

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