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D.C. United news and notes

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I caught up with D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper on Thursday to discuss a variety of topics …

*Kasper returned Tuesday night from Italy, where he spent four days meeting with counterparts at Inter Milan, the Serie A club with which United has a partnership agreement and mutual benefactor (Erick Thohir). The organizations meet twice annually. Thohir was in Milan during this gathering and attended Inter’s 1-0 home defeat to Torino.

Among the topics of discussions was the possibility of Inter players joining United. Kasper said it’s an “on-going dialogue” and “nothing is imminent.” If it were to occur, MLS’s summer transfer window would be the optimum period.

*United and third-division Richmond are in the late stages of negotiations for the Kickers to serve as D.C.’s USL Pro affiliate for the third consecutive year. With an increasing number of MLS clubs launching their own lower-tier teams, 2015 might be the final season of the partnership.

Kasper said the organization is “doing due diligence and looking at the possibility of starting our own team.”

Among the location options: Evergreen SportsPlex in Leesburg, Va., which offers four artificial-turf fields, including a stadium venue with 2,500 seats. The complex is home to Evergreen FC, a new youth club affiliated with West Ham and run by Richie Burke, a longtime mentor who worked for United’s academy program and coached Livingston FC in Scotland’s second division before returning stateside last year. He guides the Northern Virginia Royals in the fourth-tier PDL.

MLS organizations with USL Pro clubs this year: New York Red Bulls, Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, Los Angeles Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake and Vancouver Whitecaps. [The complete 24-team list]

“We are so far from anything,” Kasper cautioned.

*Irish international Sean St Ledger, who was on United’s radar for about a year, will probably remain on trial through the end of the the Florida stage of training camp, which includes three friendlies over the next week. If the club likes what it sees, it would have to enter into negotiations; no prearranged deal is in place, Kasper said.

United submitted a discovery claim with the league, authorizing first rights to the 30-year-old center back, but if another MLS club were prepared to make a serious offer, DCU would have about 72 hours to decide whether to sign him.

Most, if not all, of the other trialists will also remain in camp through next Friday. United will open the preseason schedule at 7 p.m. ET this Friday against Orlando City at IMG Academy (live stream via mlssoccer.com). DCU’s other opponents at IMG are Swedish: second-tier Jonkopings Sodra on Tuesday night and first-tier Malmo next Friday afternoon.

*United expects to have more information about forward Eddie Johnson‘s medical condition in mid-February. Citing privacy issues, Kasper declined to go into any detail. Johnson is believed to have recurring problems related to an enlarged heart. He continues to undergo tests at medical centers in Washington and elsewhere. Even if he were cleared to begin vigorous workouts next month, Johnson would need several weeks to regain fitness and, consequently, not figure into Ben Olsen‘s plans for quite some time.

*United is close to wrapping up contract negotiations with first-round draft pick Miguel Aguilar, a midfielder from the University of San Francisco. Midfielder Dan Metzger, the second-round selection from Maryland, has already signed. However, both will need to make an impression at training camp in order to secure roster slots.

*Markus Halsti, the Finnish national team midfielder-defender acquired on a free transfer from Malmo, has arrived in Bradenton for his first workout today.

*Defender Steve Birnbaum earned his first U.S. cap Wednesday, playing 90 minutes during a 3-2 defeat at Chile. Midfielder Perry Kitchen was in uniform but did not play. Both are expected to remain with the U.S. squad through the Feb. 8 friendly vs. Panama in Carson, Calif., then join United for the second stage of training camp in Austin, starting Feb. 11.

DCU will play the third-division Austin Aztex on Feb. 13 at the University of Texas and either the Columbus Crew or FC Dallas two days later. The last tuneup before heading to Costa Rica for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals is a friendly against FC Dallas on Feb. 20 at Toyota Stadium.

*United has reached agreement with Zach Thornton to become the new goalkeepers coach, although the sides have yet to sign the contract. Nonetheless, Thornton, a longtime MLS keeper with Baltimore roots, is on the full-time staff and working with the squad in Bradenton.

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