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Luciano Acosta and D.C. United are in talks for long-term contract

United news and notes

Luciano Acosta has one year left on a contract that earned him $652,000 in overall compensation last season. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

D.C. United and Luciano Acosta’s agent are in talks concerning a long-term contract for the Argentine midfielder, whose deal expires after this season.

The organization is aiming to reach agreement before the March 3 opener, thus avoiding in-season issues and the possibility of Acosta pursuing other opportunities ahead of the contract expiring.

In soccer, players with six months or less remaining on their deals have the freedom to sign pre-contract agreements with other clubs. If that were to occur, United would not receive a transfer fee.

Acosta, 24, is entering his fourth season in Washington. Last year, he earned $550,000 in base salary and $652,000 in guaranteed compensation, according to MLS Players Association data. His overall earnings were fourth on the team, behind Wayne Rooney ($2.78 million), Zoltan Stieber ($999,999) and Paul Arriola ($664,000).

Partnering with Rooney in the attack, Acosta rocketed to stardom during the second half of the 2018 season and finished seventh in MLS MVP voting. He finished with 17 assists, which ranked second in the league, and 10 goals. After Rooney’s midseason arrival, Acosta posted nine goals and 10 assists.

>> United is also engaged in negotiations with Leidos, the club’s jersey sponsor since 2014. The previous deal expired after last season, and the sides are making progress toward renewing the relationship. A person familiar with the discussions said they are finalizing paperwork.

MLS jersey sponsorships are estimated to reap between $2 million and $5 million annually.

At United’s first media availability Wednesday at The St. James in Springfield, the Leidos logo was conspicuously absent from team gear and the interview backdrop, which featured Audi (the stadium naming rights holder) and EventsDC (the District’s convention and sports authority).

But it seems as though that was necessary until the new deal was officially consummated.

Starting in 2020, MLS will allow teams to sell small ads on jersey sleeves, as well.

United begins training camp with a solid core but some missing pieces

>> The club has extended a contract offer to defender Akeem Ward, the first-round draft pick from Creighton. While talks continue, the Vienna, Va., native is in training camp. United’s second-round picks, Vermont’s Geo Alves and California’s Shinya Kadono, are regarded as trialists seeking to earn a contract with the first team or Loudoun United, D.C.'s new second-division operation.

>> Left back Peabo Doue — a former D.C. academy player who has been with five lower-division teams since 2013, most recently North Carolina FC — was invited to training camp. Other trialists are expected to arrive next week, when camp moves to Clearwater, Fla.

>> General Manager Dave Kasper said the organization hopes to hire a Loudoun United head coach next week. The search has dragged on for months. At last check, the finalists included Richie Williams (former D.C. star midfielder and U.S. national team assistant), Marcelo Sarvas (former D.C. and MLS midfielder now working with Arlington Soccer Association) and ex-Venezuelan national team coach Richard Paez.

Loudoun United will debut March 9 at Nashville. Because a 5,000-seat home stadium in Leesburg will not be completed until the summer, the USL scheduled nine of the team’s first 12 games on the road, including the first six.

The D.C. organization is still working on finalizing a location for the May 3 home opener against Philadelphia affiliate Bethlehem Steel, as well as two other home matches that month. United approached George Mason University in Fairfax County — the sides seem far apart on financial terms — and is considering Audi Field.

>> Kickoff time for D.C. United’s preseason opener against Bethlehem Steel on Feb. 2 in Clearwater has been moved to 11 a.m. from 4 p.m. … Goalkeepers coach Zach Thornton has not been with the team after injuring an Achilles' tendon in a non-soccer activity. Jack Stefanowski, who oversees the goalkeepers in the youth academy, has been working with the first team.

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