John Harkes (1996): Before returning stateside to become United’s first captain, the former University of Virginia star served six seasons in England. He won a goal of the year award, scored in a League Cup final at Wembley Stadium and played in an FA Cup final. A U.S. national team fixture, he had started in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups. Harkes played three seasons in D.C. before being traded to New England.
Freddy Adu (2004): At age 14, after playing for the United States in the U-17 and U-20 World Cups, the Ghanaian-born attacker became one of the youngest pro athletes in U.S. history. Unfairly dubbed the next Pele, he was exploited for marketing purposes and never reached his potential. His work ethic also caused friction and, after a falling out with the coaching staff, he was traded to Real Salt Lake in late 2006.
Marcelo Gallardo (2008): The two-time Argentine World Cup midfielder was 32 when he arrived in Washington on what at the time was the largest contract in club history ($1.9 million). His club career had taken him to River Plate, Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain. In D.C., he never seemed comfortable in the system and missed half the year with injuries. He scored four goals in his lone MLS season.
Marco Etcheverry (1996): With a large Bolivian community in the D.C. area, United targeted the mullet-haired midfielder as it assembled its inaugural roster. “El Diablo” had been instrumental in his homeland’s qualification for the 1994 World Cup, its first appearance in 44 years. With a gifted left foot and fiery streak, he led D.C. to three MLS Cup titles and won the 1998 MVP award.
Jaime Moreno (1996): His career in England had not panned out, but the Bolivian forward had been the youngest member of Bolivia’s 1994 World Cup squad and had burned the United States in a friendly. At 22, his midseason arrival helped key United’s 1996 trophy run. He ended up playing 14 of his 15 MLS seasons in Washington and becoming one of the most accomplished players in league history.
Raul Diaz Arce (1996): The Salvadoran national team striker brought not only a lethal scoring touch to the first-year organization but popularity in an immigrant community. United thrived on the field and at the box office. Many of those fans turned on the club after United traded him to New England for budgetary reasons following the 1997 season. He returned to United years later, but it wasn’t the same.
Dwayne De Rosario (2011): When he arrived via summer trade, the Canadian had already won four MLS Cup titles (with San Jose and Houston) and earned all-league honors five times. Despite United missing the playoffs in his abbreviated first year, he won the Golden Boot and was the league MVP. “DeRo” played two more years in Washington before moving to hometown Toronto FC.
Earnie Stewart (2003): The Dutch American scored in the 1994 World Cup upset of Colombia and was a fixture on the U.S. national team for many years. After spending his entire career in the Dutch league, Stewart joined United for two seasons, the second of which featured an MLS Cup championship. He had three goals and four assists in the 2004 regular season and a goal and two assists in the postseason.
Roy Wegerle (1997): The South African-born, U.S. World Cup forward had been with five English clubs, most successfully at Queens Park Rangers, before joining the Colorado Rapids in MLS’s first year. United acquired him midway through the 1997 season but, after limited production, D.C. shipped him to Tampa Bay the following spring for all-star Roy Lassiter (36 goals in 55 matches for United).
Eddie Johnson (2014): A pro since he was 16, the U.S. national team forward had revived his career in Seattle after several unfulfilling seasons in Europe. He figured to help solve D.C.’s scoring problems but, after posting seven goals in 26 appearances in his first campaign, he was sidelined for a year with a heart condition and ultimately decided to retire.
Charlie Davies (2011): Some 18 months after almost dying in an auto accident, the U.S. national team forward continued his inspirational comeback by joining United on loan from French club Sochaux. Had he not been severely injured, Davies probably would’ve started at the 2010 World Cup. With United, he scored 11 goals in 26 appearances before returning to Europe the next year.
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