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D.C. United nears trade for goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr., eyes two homegrown signings

Maryland junior defender Donovan Pines scored in the NCAA tournament semifinals against Indiana. (Maryland athletics) (Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

[UPDATE: Trade is now official. United acquires Edwards for a second-round pick (38th overall) in the Jan. 11 draft.]

D.C. United is on the cusp of acquiring a new backup goalkeeper: Earl Edwards Jr., who was with Orlando City for four years.

With David Ousted on the trading block and Travis Worra seeking an opportunity elsewhere, people familiar with the situation said Tuesday that United is poised to trade a second-round draft pick for Edwards, who started five first-team matches this year and was the primary keeper for Orlando’s second-division squad in 2017.

Edwards’s contract expired this month and, with Orlando not seeking to retain him, he was eligible for the league’s reentry draft. But he withdrew from that process, allowing Orlando to keep his rights and receive compensation. Edwards, who will turn 27 next month, probably would become Bill Hamid’s primary backup for D.C.

Per club policy, United officials said they would not comment on possible roster targets.

Worra’s contract option was not exercised, and United is trying to shed Ousted’s $380,000 guaranteed contract, a hefty figure for a reserve. Several MLS teams with starting needs have inquired about Ousted, a person close to the situation said.

Also, United is making a strong play to sign University of Maryland junior Donovan Pines to a homegrown contract. He was an established member of United’s youth academy, so D.C. owns his MLS rights.

Pines was a second-team all-American as he anchored the Terrapins to the NCAA championship this month. A few weeks ago, he spoke of possibly foregoing his senior season and turning pro. Clubs in Europe might make a move for Pines, a 6-foot-5 center back.

United is also planning to make a homegrown offer to William & Mary senior Antonio Bustamante, a forward from Springfield, Va., who had 34 goals and 17 assists in four college seasons. In 2017, he scored 15 times and was named the Colonial Athletic Association player of the year. He dropped to four goals and seven assists this season.

Pines, and particularly Bustamante, would benefit from regular playing time with D.C.'s new second-division squad, Loudoun United. In the past, prospects would struggle to receive minutes with the first team or report to the Richmond Kickers, an independent, second-tier organization, for opportunities.

Loudoun United will debut in March and eventually will play home matches at a 5,000-seat stadium in Leesburg. The facility is under construction.