D.C. United is close to completing a deal to acquire Christian Gomez, a 30-year-old central midfielder with 12 years' experience in the Argentine leagues, sources close to the negotiations said yesterday.

Gomez has played for Independiente, Nueva Chicago, Argentinos Juniors and, most recently, Arsenal, which is on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

Club officials are hoping to complete the move in the next few days and bring him to Washington for a physical next week. He would also have to be approved for a work visa, a process that usually takes a week, before being added to the roster for next Saturday's match at Columbus or, more likely, the Aug. 28 game at New England.

"It's very close," one source said. "There's some paperwork left."

Club president Kevin Payne and technical director Dave Kasper declined to comment.

It's believed their interest in Gomez goes back almost two years, when staff members went on a scouting trip to South America. At the time, the team couldn't afford the salary or transfer fees. They apparently have been monitoring his progress through videotapes and scouting reports and, in recent weeks, have been able to negotiate a contract.

Although Gomez is considered a free agent, complicated financial issues would require MLS to purchase his contract rights on a loan with an option to buy.

United has one slot available for a veteran international player (each MLS team is permitted three) and plenty of salary cap space following the recent transfer of midfielder Bobby Convey to English club Reading, as well as other roster moves this summer.

Gomez's arrival would give United an experienced playmaker with a Latin style who might have a creative impact similar to what Amado Guevara has provided the first-place New York/New Jersey MetroStars. Guevara, 28, is the front-runner to win the league's most valuable player award after compiling 10 goals and eight assists for an MLS-best 28 points.

United is also preparing to announce the acquisition of midfielder Tim Lawson, 28, who has been playing in Germany's lower levels. He's awaiting his international clearance before joining MLS.

Meantime, the club is hoping to maintain its momentum tonight against New England at RFK Stadium following Wednesday's 3-1 home victory over Colorado, which halted a four-game winless streak. Defender Bryan Namoff will return from suspension, but midfielder Ben Olsen is questionable because of a groin injury.

"We're getting much better, but there's still an important period in front of us," said Coach Peter Nowak, whose team will play three consecutive road games after tonight. "We know it's not going to be easy."

United is only one point behind second-place Columbus in the Eastern Conference but just two points ahead of New England and Chicago.

"Everyone knows this is probably the biggest game of the year because if we lose, we could fall into last place," midfielder Dema Kovalenko said. "We've got to win our games at home, and we've got to beat teams in our division."

United Notes: Nowak said he has no concerns about the possibility of heavy rain affecting tonight's game -- "We play soccer, we don't play water polo," he said -- but was monitoring Hurricane Charley as it approached Florida's west coast, where he owns a home a few blocks from the beach in Naples. . . .

Midfielder Earnie Stewart (United States) and defender Ezra Hendrickson (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) will report to their respective national teams tomorrow for World Cup qualifiers Wednesday. . . . Forward Alecko Eskandarian has a sore right ankle or foot but should be able to play tonight.

D.C. United defender Bryan Namoff, left, battling Galaxy's Carlos Ruiz, will return from a suspension tonight, but Ben Olsen (groin) is questionable.