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D.C. United adds 6-foot-9 goalkeeper in MLS draft as it nears high-profile signing

As D.C. United prepared to finalize a deal for an international player with high impact, the organization added to its corps of prospects Thursday by selecting a 6-foot-9 French goalkeeper, Temple University’s Simon Lefebvre, with the No. 21 choice in the MLS draft.

The pick came the same day Peruvian midfielder Edison Flores was in Washington for a physical and final paperwork involving a $5 million transfer from Mexican club Morelia. Barring last-minute complications, United should be able to announce the move by next week.

Flores, 25, would help offset the loss of three key attackers, including captain Wayne Rooney.

The Peruvian national team starter arrived Wednesday with his agent and, according to people familiar with his itinerary, met team officials and toured the city.

The choice of a goalkeeper in the draft was a little odd. United already has three under first-team contracts (Bill Hamid, Chris Seitz and Earl Edwards Jr.) and another at second-division Loudoun United (Colin Miller). Edwards last year was loaned to Loudoun as well.

However, General Manager Dave Kasper said the team has had its eye on Lefebvre for a while and watched him perform for a few weeks this past summer at United’s first-team training sessions. “He’s got potential, and Loudoun is a pathway for him,” Kasper said.

Lefebvre, who came through Bordeaux’s youth academy, appeared in 35 matches over two years for Temple.

Without a first-round selection at the start of the day, United moved up in a trade with the Philadelphia Union. The sides exchanged position in the league’s allocation order, used for U.S. national team players and those returning to the league from abroad. United also would relinquish future financial assets should Lefebvre reach performance thresholds.

In the second round (No. 42 overall), United claimed Loyola (Md.) forward Josh Fawole, from Columbia, Md. He had eight goals and two assists as a senior. He, too, would end up at Loudoun should he impress the organization at training camp, which will open Jan. 18, first in Washington, then in Clearwater, Fla.

Long before United’s draft turn came, three players from the D.C. area teams that met in the NCAA final less than a month ago were taken within the first six selections.

Right back Dylan Nealis, who led Georgetown to its first NCAA championship, went No. 3 to expansion Inter Miami, the club run by David Beckham. Virginia striker Daryl Dike was chosen fifth, by Orlando City, and teammate Henry Kessler, a center back, was the No. 6 choice, by the New England Revolution.

Dike, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore, had 10 goals and eight assists in helping the Cavaliers advance to the final, which was decided on penalty kicks after a 3-3 draw in Cary, N.C. The Oklahoma native, whose family name is pronounced “Dee-kay,” scored twice in the semifinal against Wake Forest and once in the final to earn the College Cup’s award for most outstanding offensive player.

Kessler, a 6-4 junior, was no stranger to New England Coach Bruce Arena, a former Virginia coach who has a home in Charlottesville and attends games at Klöckner Stadium.

One other player from the D.C. area went in the first round: Georgetown forward Ifunanyachi Achara, taken by MLS Cup runner-up Toronto at No. 25.

Clemson junior forward Robbie Robinson, the nation’s points leader and Hermann Trophy winner, was taken first by Miami.

With the draft declining in significance — MLS’s increased spending on established pros globally has relegated most college players to long-term prospects — the league for the first time did not conduct a splashy event on location in conjunction with the annual United Soccer Coaches convention.

In terms of player impact and name recognition, the MLS draft is more like the baseball process than the glamorous NBA and NFL events. So on Thursday, MLS team officials remained at home and made their picks remotely.

Many players selected will end up playing for second- or third-division teams owned or affiliated with MLS organizations.

The final two rounds will take place Monday.

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