Losada, 38, is getting personally acclimated: an apartment, bank account, car and driving routine.
The professional side is not as settled for the Argentine, who in January left a head coaching job in Belgium and a 15-year stay in Europe to become MLS’s youngest leader. He then had to wait several weeks for a work visa before he met his employers and players for the first time.
Losada will get started with the club’s two longest-serving players recovering from offseason surgery and another key figure rehabbing a long-term knee injury. His top player is on loan to a Welsh club for another two months.
He will wait for two planned acquisitions to cross the finish line and a third to move closer to resolution as the search for additional help continues. Recent trades have reaped not players but rather the financial means to help round out the roster.
The annual preseason retreat in Clearwater, Fla., was scrapped, and the 34-game slate, less than six weeks from starting, remains in the hands of MLS’s schedule-makers.
While those issues play out, United will begin workouts at its Buzzard Point stadium and, when necessary, use RFK Stadium’s training grounds. (A new practice facility in Leesburg is scheduled to open late this summer.)
Next Monday, United will head to Cary, N.C., for a week of practice and probably a friendly against a lower-flight pro team. In subsequent weeks, D.C. will face regional MLS rivals and second- and third-division clubs.
“It’s going to be a weird and strange year for all of us,” Losada said. “It will be practically a miracle to have results from the first game. A new coach with a new way of thinking and a new way of training — it’s going to take some time. I think that’s quite normal.”
The start of the Losada era marks the first preseason in almost 25 years that has not included Ben Olsen as a head coach (2011-20), assistant (2010) or player (1998-2009). Fired in October with a year left on his contract, Olsen joined the front office as an adviser.
United missed the playoffs last season, extending its MLS Cup absence to 16 years. Despite the shortcomings, most of the 2020 roster has returned.
The Losada hiring was, by far, United’s biggest winter move. Recently, however, the front office has crackled with activity.
In anticipation of a loan from Belgian club Kortrijk being finalized, American defender Brendan Hines-Ike arrived last weekend. Forward Jovanny Bolívar is awaiting a work visa before arriving on loan from La Guaira in his native Venezuela.
United is working on reacquiring midfielder Lucas Rodríguez from Estudiantes in his native Argentina. He was on loan with United in 2019.
First-round draft picks Kimarni Smith (Clemson) and Michael DeShields (Wake Forest) have signed.
General Manager Dave Kasper said the roster construction will continue through the end of the primary transfer window June 1.
“It’s going to be important for Hernán to understand our player pool,” Kasper said. “Yes, we want to add players, but we want to do it very strategically. We want to make sure Hernán gets a chance to work with our group.”
Citing financial constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Losada tempered expectations.
“Covid has a huge impact on finances, and we need to be very careful,” he said. “We need to be creative. We can’t be spending tons of money, at least not the first season. So that’s why I say: We need more players, we need more quality, but it also has to be [within] the budget.”
Some of the most important returning players aren’t available right away. Bill Hamid, the starting goalkeeper for much of 10 years, will not return from hernia surgery until the second half of preseason, Kasper said. Captain Steven Birnbaum, a starting center back for seven years who had ankle surgery, is out until probably the end of preseason, Kasper said.
Midfielder Felipe Martins, entering his 10th MLS season, is on pace to return from ACL surgery sometime in May.
“We lost, in my eyes, the best player,” Losada said. “We will see if he comes back. If he does, fantastic, but that’s something for May to June.”
The preseason roster will include two former United standouts seeking to revive their careers after injury setbacks: Andy Najar, 27, who played sparingly for Los Angeles FC last season following seven years in Belgium, and Rodney Wallace, 32, who hasn’t played since April 2019.
The preseason shuffle, Losada said, will begin laying the foundation for long-term success.
“I’m sure after the first season, even after a couple months, we are going to know what we need and what’s necessary to achieve the kind of soccer we want to bring,” he said. “From Day One, I am coming with a different way of working. You cannot change all of it from Day One. Step by step.”