D.C. United is on the brink of acquiring forward Earnie Stewart, a three-time U.S. World Cup player who plans to finish his long professional career in Major League Soccer, and Bulgarian defender Galin Ivanov.
Club officials are hoping to announce the acquisition of Stewart today, but contract details with MLS were still being finalized last night.
"We're prepared to do a deal with Earnie," United technical director Dave Kasper said. "We had a very good meeting with him [last week] and it looks promising."
Coach Ray Hudson added, "If the contract gets done, he's our guy."
Stewart, who will turn 34 in March, played in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups for the U.S. national team. He also has spent 14 years playing in the Dutch league, but was given the freedom to pursue other opportunities this winter by his current club, NAC Breda.
Stewart said last week that he planned to sign with MLS -- which owns all player contracts -- and play for United or the Dallas Burn, but D.C. has the first option because the league owes it two player allocations. United's top priority had been Argentine forward Pedro Ojeda of Spanish second division club Numancia, but when that potential deal hit a roadblock late last week, the club turned its attention to Stewart.
United had also expressed interest in filling its forward slot with U.S. veteran Joe-Max Moore or Polish national team player Cezary Kucharski, but with Stewart ready to join, those talks have ended.
Stewart returned to the Netherlands a few days ago and wasn't available to comment yesterday.
With the other allocation, United plans to obtain Ivanov, 27, who plays for the top Bulgarian club, CSKA Sofia. A deal is "not final, but very close," Kasper said.
Ivanov would start in central defense and join countryman Hristo Stoitchkov, the 1994 World Cup star who is almost certain to be traded to United from the Chicago Fire in the next few weeks, sources said. Stoitchkov, who will turn 37 next month, would accept a large pay cut to remain in the league and would serve as a player-assistant coach.
Also, former United captain John Harkes (who will turn 36 in March) could rejoin the club as a reserve midfielder, but a trade with Columbus, his team for the past two seasons, probably wouldn't be executed for some time. "That may be the last piece to fall," Hudson said.
A roster spot would likely become available following the loss of veteran defender-midfielder Ivan McKinley, who ruptured an Achilles' tendon at a recent workout. He started 23 of 28 games last season. "It's a major blow to the team," Hudson said. "It's a very bad injury."
While the club puts the finishing touches on veteran acquisitions, United is finalizing plans for Friday's draft in Kansas City, Mo. Team officials attended the scouting combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the last three days and were encouraged by the level of play.
D.C. has four of the top 14 selections in the draft and has received several trade offers, but Kasper said it's unlikely he will part with the top overall pick or the fifth selection. Deals for the 11th and 14th picks are possible on draft day, he added.
Hudson reiterated his interest in University of Virginia forward Alecko Eskandarian, saying "it's almost a foregone conclusion" that United will take the 2002 national player of the year with the first pick.