D.C. United is in the final stages of acquiring Norwegian forward Ola Kamara from a Chinese club in what would be the second-largest transfer in club history, multiple people familiar with the deal said Friday.
Kamara, 29, has played for Shenzhen since February after three seasons and 48 goals in MLS with the Columbus Crew and the LA Galaxy.
United would pay an estimated $2.5 million transfer fee to the Chinese side and send $250,000 in allocation money to the Colorado Rapids for the right to move to the top of the MLS allocation list, which is used for select players returning to the league.
The highest figure United has paid for a player was about $3 million to Mexican club Tijuana for attacker Paul Arriola two years ago. (Captain Wayne Rooney arrived last year from England on a free transfer.)
Kamara has been offered a three-year pact worth well more than $1 million in salary, one person familiar with the talks said, a figure that would place him second on the roster behind Rooney ($3.5 million). In 2018, Kamara earned $925,000 for the Galaxy.
Barring last-minute snags, Kamara should arrive in Washington sometime next week and debut Aug. 11 against the Galaxy at Audi Field or Aug. 17 at Vancouver.
United officials said they would not comment on their player search.
This deal would come in the final days of the MLS transfer and trade window, which will close Wednesday. To clear roster and salary cap space, United in the past week cut ties with Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Stieber and Irish defender-midfielder Chris McCann.
United has been seeking help for the inconsistent attack. Kamara, a member of the Norwegian national team, would add a pure goal-scoring threat to a team that has relied heavily on Rooney (11 goals, seven assists) to create and finish opportunities. United (9-6-9, 36 points) has been shut out nine times and, on Saturday at Chicago, was listless in a 0-0 draw.
Coach Ben Olsen’s squad entered the weekend three points behind first-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference but just three points clear of the playoff threshold. On Sunday, United will host the Union at Audi Field.
United’s only other forward is Quincy Amarikwa, who has served well as a late-game substitute but has only made one start and scored once. Olsen has used midfielders Luciano Acosta and Ulises Segura at center forward this season.
The move would also give Olsen the flexibility to move Rooney into the midfield to generate a stronger attack. It could also spell the end for Acosta, the Argentine playmaker who, in the final year of his contract, has not been able to replicate the spectacular form he showed last summer and fall.
Acosta and United seem far apart in negotiations over a new deal, and he has been exploring opportunities overseas.
Kamara scored 16 goals in 25 appearances with Columbus in 2016 and 18 in 34 the following year. Before the 2018 season, the Crew traded him to the Galaxy for U.S. national team forward Gyasi Zardes and a financial package that reached $500,000.
Partnering with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kamara scored 14 times in 31 matches for the Galaxy. However, he was not playing in his natural position, setting up on the wing or as a withdrawn forward behind the Swedish superstar. Los Angeles failed to make the playoffs.
Just before the 2019 season started, the Galaxy sold him to Shenzhen for an estimated $3.5 million. He did not play regularly in the Chinese Super League.
Kamara’s previous stops include several clubs in Norway, 1860 Munich in Germany, and SV Ried and Austria Wien in Austria.