Leonardo Jara, a starting right back for Argentine power Boca Juniors, is on the verge of joining D.C. United.
According to people close to the situation Thursday night, Boca has tentatively agreed to loan Jara to the MLS team for the 2019 season. United would then have the option to buy his contract next winter.
Jara, 27, would fill a massive void for United, which did not re-sign Nick DeLeon and must wait for Oniel Fisher (ACL injury) and Chris Odoi-Atsem (Hodgkin’s lymphoma) to return to full strength. Without an experienced newcomer, attack-minded midfielder Paul Arriola would be the prime candidate to start at right back.
United has been tracking Jara for quite some time and, one source said, came highly recommended by D.C. star Luciano Acosta. They were teammates at Argentina’s Estudiantes in 2015 and remain in contact.
Barring complications, one of the people close to the situation said, Jara could arrive in Washington this weekend for a physical. Training camp will open Monday.
The Portland Timbers were reportedly also interested in him and speculation swirled about a possible move to the Mexican league.
Jara would become the second arrival from Argentina this winter. Midfielder Lucas Rodriguez, 21, is joining United on loan from Estudiantes. He, too, was a member of the 2015 Estudiantes squad.
A fourth Argentine, Yamil Asad, seems unlikely to return after playing on loan from Velez Sarsfield last year. United is at an impasse in negotiations to buy the 24-year-old attacker.
Jara has played for Boca Juniors for three years, starting 39 league matches and 19 Copa Libertadores games. His primary position is right back, but he also appeared on the right wing and in central midfield during his career, which began at Estudiantes in 2009. He has made 172 first-division appearances and 141 starts.
During Boca’s run to the Copa Libertadores finals last year, Jara started 12 matches, entered as a sub in one and missed one.
United would likely have to apply discretionary targeted allocation money to add Jara to the roster. Discretionary TAM is funds spent by team investors to help offset salary-cap impact of players earning between $530,000 and $1.5 million.
There is also targeted allocation money, made available to teams from league headquarters to avoid classifying someone as a designated player; each team is permitted three DPs only. However, United has exhausted that regular form of TAM on other players.
United remains in the market for a potential starting center back and a second-choice forward. Although training camp opens next week, the club will continue filling roster spots leading to the March 3 opener against Atlanta United at Audi Field.
TampaMeantime, D.C. has finalized five preseason matches in Florida: second-division Bethlehem Steel on Feb. 2 in Clearwater; MLS expansion FC Cincinnati on Feb. 7 in Bradenton; second-tier Tampa Bay Rowdies on Feb. 16 in St. Petersburg; Philadelphia Union on Feb. 20 in Clearwater; and Montreal Impact on Feb. 23 in St. Petersburg.
The organization had flirted with the idea of spending a portion of training camp in Asia or the Middle East (in large part, for marketing purposes), then decided to spend the majority of preseason in Florida.