Multiple European clubs have again taken keen interest in D.C. United homegrown midfielder Chris Durkin, though the MLS organization seems unlikely to sell him this winter after resisting offers in the past year, the Insider has learned.
Durkin, 18, enjoyed a breakout campaign this year, starting 16 regular season matches, appearing in 23 of 34 overall and performing with increasing maturity in his first full year with the first team.
The names of the clubs were not revealed, but Germany’s Hannover and Portugal’s Benfica have been linked to him in the past.
Hannover had declined United’s asking price of between $1.5 million and $2 million; the Bundesliga side would have placed him with its under-23 squad and exposed him to first-team training sessions. Benfica’s offer, estimated between $600,000 and $1 million, was rejected by the D.C. organization last winter; Durkin would have joined Benfica’s second team.
Offers from unspecified clubs have increased this fall, one person familiar with the situation said, but United seems to believe Durkin’s value will rise in 2019.
Aside from his role with United, Durkin is a candidate for the U.S. squad likely headed for the Under-20 World Cup in Poland in May and June.
After injuries to experienced D.C. teammates, Durkin started 12 matches between late March and late July. He performed well overall but was burdened at times by being the only player supporting two attacking central midfielders.
United began to click when Coach Ben Olsen installed two defensive midfielders in a lineup rejuvenated by English star Wayne Rooney. Russell Canouse and Junior Moreno were the primary starters, but when Moreno was unavailable, Durkin started four of the final nine regular season matches.
United was unbeaten in 10 games before falling to Columbus on penalty kicks in the first round of the playoffs.
Canouse, 23, and Moreno, 25, will undoubtedly enter 2019 as the starting tandem. United could move Durkin to central defense, a position he has filled at times for the junior national teams and in United’s preseason. Having grown in height and strength, he probably could meet the demands of the job.
Steve Birnbaum, 27, played every minute this season, partnering with Frederic Brillant, 33, or Kofi Opare, 28. Opare had foot surgery two weeks ago and will be sidelined four to five months.
Durkin, who is from the Richmond area, signed with United at 16 and, until this season, spent much of his time on loan with the second-flight Richmond Kickers and the U.S. under-17 national team.
Also, United is preparing to open negotiations with Argentine midfielder Luciano Acosta, whose dynamic performance in the second half of the season helped lift a last-place team into the playoffs. Acosta has one year remaining on a contract with a $550,000 base salary, fourth highest on the roster. A long-term extension probably would take that figure to about $1 million and protect United from losing him on a free transfer abroad next winter.
And Joseph Mora, United’s starting left back, received his first call-up to the Costa Rican national team, which will play friendlies at Chile on Nov. 16 and Peru on Nov. 20. Mora, 25, has played for his country’s under-17, U-20, U-21 and U-23 squads.