CLEARWATER BEACH, FLA. — D.C. United is applying the final touches to a complex deal that would bring Yamil Asad to Washington and, in the process, introduce a dynamic Argentine attacker into a squad that failed to score in half of its matches last season.
Although paperwork remained incomplete late Monday, Asad is tentatively scheduled to arrive at training camp Wednesday from Buenos Aires. He might suit up for Thursday’s preseason opener against Swedish champion Malmo in Bradenton, Fla.
To acquire the 23-year-old midfielder’s MLS rights, D.C. will send $500,000 in allocation funds to Atlanta United: $200,000 of general allocation money and $100,000 in targeted allocation money this year, and $100,000 of each in 2019. His production this year could trigger additional compensation.
D.C. officials said they did not want to comment. The team’s pursuit of Asad was first reported by the Insider on Monday afternoon.
On loan to Atlanta from Argentine club Velez Sarsfield last season, Asad recorded seven goals and 13 assists in 32 regular season appearances. Atlanta’s efforts to retain him in 2018 failed. The club, however, kept his league rights.
Minnesota — the third MLS team known as “United” — had also taken interest in Asad this winter.
While negotiating with Atlanta, D.C. also needed to reach a loan deal with Velez Sarsfield and agree to a contract with the player himself. Under terms of the agreement with the Argentine club, D.C. will have the option to purchase Asad’s contract next December.
Asad was primarily a left wing in Atlanta, but in Washington, he could end up shuffling between several attacking positions in a five-man midfield or serve as a withdrawn forward when D.C. employs two front-runners.
With the season opener less than a month away, Coach Ben Olsen will need to sort through a wealth of midfielders vying for playing time. Zoltan Stieber was the first-choice left wing upon arriving last summer, but United also used him in the middle. Luciano Acosta is the two-year incumbent in the attacking central role, but he’s suspended for the March 3 opener at Orlando City because of a red card in the 2017 finale.
In some situations, Olsen could pair Stieber and Acosta in the middle, with a single defensive midfielder in support.
Paul Arriola, a U.S. national team regular, seems certain to start on the right wing. In the deep-lying area, Olsen will choose from four players: Russell Canouse, Ian Harkes and newcomers Junior Moreno (Venezuela) and Ulises Segura (Costa Rica). Chris Durkin, a 17-year-old defensive midfielder and center back, is also in the mix.
In constructing the roster, United emphasized the need to bulk up in preparation for a congested schedule in the latter part of the season. With Audi Field’s July 14 grand opening skewing the schedule, MLS back-loaded D.C.’s calendar: 14 matches in the first four-plus months and 20 in the last 3 1/2 months.
Asad’s imminent arrival probably means United is finished amassing attackers. Though it was active this winter, acquiring six potential starters in all, D.C. did not sign a full-fledged scorer, instead placing its trust in newcomer Darren Mattocks, as well as Patrick Mullins and Bruno Miranda. None has scored more than eight goals in a season. Last year, United went scoreless in 17 of 34 matches and finished with 31 goals, tied for last in the league.
In lieu of a proven scorer, United officials believe a more potent midfield, combined with Mattocks’s speed and Mullins’s renewal, will elevate the attack.
Pleased with the attacking upgrades, the club will apparently finish the roster work by adding defensive pieces.
The central corps is settled with captain Steve Birnbaum, newcomer Frederic Brillant and holdovers Kofi Opare and Jalen Robinson. Taylor Kemp and Nick DeLeon are the incumbents on the corners, but with no depth, MLS veteran Sheanon Williams (right side), former Tijuana prospect John Requejo (left) and 2017 rookie Chris Odoi-Atsem (right and left) are seeking to win contracts.
United also remains in the market for an outside defender from Latin America. (The club has not identified him.) The three goalkeepers are David Ousted, Steve Clark and Travis Worra.
In total, besides Asad, United plans to sign three or four players in the coming weeks. Asad would become the 17th player on the senior roster. (Teams must have at least 18 but no more than 20.) United has several openings for lower-salaried and young players on the supplemental and reserve rosters.
Olsen is likely to trim the preseason roster after the current phase of training camp ends with Thursday’s friendly.
>> Birnbaum, Canouse and Rob Vincent skipped the late-day practice Monday because of ailments. United invited Vincent to camp after declining his contract option last fall. The staff appreciates his work rate and versatility and, despite Vincent’s persistent knee problems, was willing to give him a long-shot opportunity to make the squad.
>> For the second consecutive year, United is spending the bulk of camp in Clearwater, west of Tampa Bay. And for the first time, it’s using the grass fields at Walter C. Campbell Park, which is part of a neighborhood drenched in baseball history.
Across the street, on what is now a recreation center, the Brooklyn Dodgers conducted spring training from 1923 to 1932 and 1936 to 1941. Later, the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies used the fields.
In 1955, on land two blocks east, the city built a new ballpark, Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, for the Phillies, who visited every spring through 2003. In 1985, during a Clearwater Phillies minor league game, the organist was ejected by the chief umpire for playing “Three Blind Mice” after a controversial call went against the home side. The Rolling Stones played at the 6,500-seat venue in 1965.
After the Phillies left for new digs four miles east, much of the stadium was demolished. The field, though, remains in good shape and is used by college and high school teams.
The fields used by United sit between the recreation center and old stadium site. The city is planning to erect monuments honoring the 80 Hall of Fame baseball players who once took their cuts in the largely residential neighborhood seven blocks east of Clearwater Bay.
>> Ryan Nelsen, who captained United to the 2004 MLS Cup title, was in training gear and joined the team for Monday’s late-day workout. The former New Zealand national team defender (and 2010 World Cup captain) is 40 years old and definitely not attempting a comeback. He was in the area and reconnected with Olsen, his former teammate. Nelsen is an agent and businessman living in Washington.