Maryland defender Donovan Pines vs. Stanford early in the 2018 season. (University of Maryland athletics)

Donovan Pines, a towering defensive anchor during Maryland’s improbable run to the NCAA soccer championship last month, will forgo his final year of eligibility to pursue a pro career, Terrapins Coach Sasho Cirovski said Tuesday.

Pines, a 6-foot-5 junior center back, has hired an agent and begun talks with D.C. United, which is seeking to sign him to a homegrown contract, multiple people said. As a graduate of United’s academy system, he is not eligible for the MLS draft Friday or to sign directly with another team in the league unless D.C. renounces or trades his rights.

Pines had been scheduled to fly to England last weekend to begin a 10-day training opportunity with at least one club. However, with United eager to sign him and MLS training camps opening in two weeks, he postponed those plans.

However, Pines has continued drawing attention overseas, those people said, and he could revisit those opportunities if talks with United do not culminate in a deal.

Pines is the second Maryland player to turn pro early. Canadian junior goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair signed with MLS last week and is expected to be taken in the first round of the draft in Chicago.

Pines, who is from Clarksville, Md., in Howard County, was a second-team all-American who played a key role in Maryland winning its third College Cup crown since 2005. The Terrapins did not concede a goal in five NCAA tournament matches, and Pines scored the second goal in a 2-0 upset of Indiana in the semifinals.

United’s technical staff has been monitoring him closely for two years. Team officials said they did not want to comment on possible homegrown signings. However, besides Pines, D.C. is also aiming to add William & Mary attacker Antonio Bustamante (Springfield, Va.).

Both players would probably begin their pro careers with Loudoun United, D.C.'s second-division squad that will begin its USL inaugural season in March.

************

Ian Harkes, a D.C. homegrown midfielder who did not fit into the organization’s plans after two seasons, has attracted interest from three Scottish clubs, as well as at least one MLS team, the Insider has learned. A resolution is expected soon.

Harkes — a Gonzaga High School graduate whose father John starred for United in 1996-98 — was born in England and has Scottish ancestry. He holds a British passport, easing the pathway to a contract there.

United maintains his league rights, and if he were to join another MLS team, D.C. would receive compensation.

Harkes started 22 league matches in his rookie year but, after United made several roster moves last winter, he received four starts and eight assignments.

************

United is close to hiring a head coach for the Loudoun squad and is considering, among others, former U.S. national team assistant Richie Williams, ex-MLS midfielder Marcelo Sarvas and former Venezuelan national team boss Richard Paez, sources said,

Williams, a longtime defensive midfielder who played on three of D.C.'s MLS Cup championship teams, is a member of United’s Hall of Tradition. Sarvas, a native of Brazil, played for United in 2016-17 and has been coaching with Arlington Youth Soccer. Paez guided Venezuela in 2001-07 and has been coaching in Ecuador.

United is aiming to open Loudoun United’s 5,000-seat stadium in Leesburg this summer. Until then, the team will play home matches at temporary venues. Audi Field and George Mason University are under consideration.

An adjacent training center in Leesburg — which will house the first team, USL squad and academy operations — will not open until probably the fall.

*************

Richie Burke, who coached in United’s academy in 2005-10 and oversaw the under-23 squad in 2014, was formally named coach of the Washington Spirit on Tuesday. He had accepted the job with the National Women’s Soccer League team two weeks ago.

"I’ve worked with professional men’s teams in both the U.K. and U.S., and now the chance to work with professional women is very exciting,” the Liverpool native said in a written statement. “We will work tirelessly to provide Spirit fans with an exciting brand of football that they will be proud of, and establish a winning culture on and off the field.”

He has an UEFA "A" coaching badge and a U.S. Soccer "B" license.

The Spirit was 7-32-9 the past two seasons. Burke succeeds Jim Gabarra, who was fired last summer. Tom Torres, the interim coach, has been retained as an assistant.

Read more soccer coverage:

What to watch for in American soccer in 2019

D.C. United superstar Wayne Rooney arrested at Dulles Airport for public intoxication

D.C. United extends Coach Ben Olsen through 2021