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D.C. United open to trade offers for leading scorer Ola Kamara

Ola Kamara, right, has scored 26 goals in 55 appearances since joining United in the summer of 2019. (Will Newton for The Washington Post)
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Ola Kamara was among D.C. United’s standouts last season, sharing the MLS scoring title and helping the club contend for a playoff berth. But he also turned 32 and entered the offseason with one year left on his contract.

So as players around the league prepare to report to training camps next week, United has told inquiring teams that it’s open to trading the Norwegian striker, people familiar with the situation said Thursday.

One person said United has been actively pursuing a trade, in part because Kamara’s value has risen since his standout performance last season. However, another person said the club is only entertaining offers that come its way and has spoken to as many as three teams.

A United spokesman said the organization did not want to comment on personnel issues. Kamara said he did not have a comment.

Ahead of Coach Hernán Losada’s second season, United has sent scouts to South America and monitored the European market in hopes of landing impact attackers. Team officials have said they are aiming to sign a third designated player to join winger Paul Arriola and attacker Edison Flores. (Teams are allowed a maximum of three DPs — players who are paid beyond standard league guidelines.)

For both U.S. national soccer teams, it’s a massive year

Aside from Kamara, United’s depth chart shows only two other strikers: Nigel Robertha (four goals in 18 matches) and Erik Sorga, who is on loan to Dutch club VVV-Venlo until this summer. Ramón Ábila, a midseason acquisition, was among several attackers let go this winter.

According to MLS Players Association data, Kamara earned $420,000 last season, above the league average but a modest figure for a proven scorer. However, United used targeted allocation money to soften the budget impact, and Kamara actually made around $1.5 million.

He posted 19 goals in 28 appearances, tying him with New York City’s Valentín Castellanos, who was awarded the Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer because he had more assists (eight, to Kamara’s five).

In midseason, Kamara scored in six consecutive matches, and in September he recorded a first-half hat trick against Chicago. A two-goal performance in the finale in Toronto ended a six-game personal drought, but the 3-1 victory wasn’t enough for D.C. to overtake the New York Red Bulls for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Kamara was particularly adept from the penalty spot, converting nine of 10.

Since he signed with United in the summer of 2019, Kamara has scored 26 goals in 55 regular season matches. Last year’s tally set a personal high in MLS, one greater than in 2017 with the Columbus Crew.

Beyond Kamara’s age and contract status, there is some question whether he fits into Losada’s system. Last year, Losada implemented high-pressure, quick-strike tactics that demanded a lot of movement from the players. He might prefer a more mobile player in that position than Kamara, an imposing target who doesn’t create a lot of opportunities on his own.

After one-year loan, D.C. United acquires Brendan Hines-Ike on permanent transfer

United has been conspicuously quiet this winter, announcing just one significant move: the permanent acquisition of defender Brendan Hines-Ike, who was on loan last season from Belgian club Kortrijk.

The team did not select anyone in MLS’s two-stage re-entry draft and hasn’t signed any free agents.

It’s in talks to retain free agent midfielders Júnior Moreno and Felipe Martins and is seeking a goalkeeper to compete with veteran Bill Hamid.

Training camp will open next weekend in the Washington area before moving to South Florida, then Southern California. The season opener is Feb. 26 against expansion Charlotte FC at Audi Field.

Soccer notes: Maryland sophomore Ben Bender, the Big Ten midfielder of the year, signed with MLS and will be available in Tuesday’s draft. Georgetown sophomore midfielder Chris Hegardt also turned pro, signing with Charlotte, which acquired his homegrown rights from the Seattle Sounders. …

Loudoun United, D.C.'s second-division squad, announced it will open the USL Championship season March 12 against Indy Eleven at Segra Field in Leesburg. …

The Washington Spirit transferred Japanese national team defender Saori Takarada to Swedish club Linköping FC. Terms were not disclosed, but a person familiar with the deal said a small fee was paid. Takarada played one season for the National Women’s Soccer League champions, appearing in 10 matches (six starts).

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