D.C. United's exhaustive search for an Argentine defender appears close to being over.

According to sources close to the negotiations, the club has targeted Facundo Erpen, a 22-year-old central defender from Talleres de Cordoba in Argentina's second division.

"It's not done, but it looks like it's going to happen," said one source, who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the discussions.

United's interest in Erpen was first reported by Telemundo, a Spanish language television network.

Erpen, who is 5 feet 11 and 160 pounds, played in Boca Juniors' prestigious youth program before joining Talleres in 2000. He appeared in 33 matches during the 2004-05 season.

If a deal is finalized, Erpen wouldn't be able to join United until mid- to late August because of international transfer rules and the work visa process. MLS, which acquires players on behalf of its teams, would likely pay about $200,000 for Erpen's rights. There is also a possibility he could be acquired on loan. His salary is expected to be between $100,000 and $120,000.

United spokesman Doug Hicks said the team wouldn't comment on players who aren't under contract with the club.

United officials saw Erpen play last winter during a scouting trip to Argentina. They returned to South America last month and, although Talleres's season had already been completed, the transfer talks intensified. It is believed he also holds a European Union passport, which would make it easier for him to play in Europe in the future.

United is hoping Erpen has the same impact that another Argentine, midfielder Christian Gomez, had last year. Gomez was a late-season acquisition from Arsenal de Sarandi in the second division and helped spark a late turnaround that led to United's first MLS title since 1999.

-- Steven Goff