D.C. United on Wednesday announced the trade of standout winger Paul Arriola to FC Dallas, the first of what’s expected to be several major roster moves in the coming weeks.
The move leaves a significant void in United’s attack — the quick, energetic Arriola was an influential presence for 4½ years — but provides the club with the means to acquire players before the Feb. 26 season opener against Charlotte and in this summer’s transfer window.
“It was a big decision for the club, obviously, but it was something he wanted to do,” said Dave Kasper, United’s president of soccer operations and sporting director. “We felt like we got a great return that will give us a lot of roster flexibility moving forward.”
Arriola, who will turn 27 next week, requested to move elsewhere for “personal reasons,” Kasper said. He declined to go into detail.
Arriola — who is with the U.S. national team in Columbus, Ohio, for a World Cup qualifier against El Salvador on Thursday — posted on social media that United “did not push me out, but rather, this was a personal decision at a critical time in my life, for my career and family to ask to be open to a move.”
But it was also unclear how Arriola, a pure winger, would have fit into Coach Hernán Losada’s system. With the World Cup on the horizon, Arriola wants to showcase in his best position all year.
His first choice was Mexican power Club América. The sides were close to an agreement on a transfer fee of more than $3 million (United also would’ve received a player on loan), but Arriola and Club América couldn’t agree on salary, one person familiar with the situation said.
Dallas was willing to relinquish a huge sum of general allocation money, which teams can use to sign players and offset the impact of a contract on the salary cap. Of the $2 million it received, D.C. has $1.5 million available this year.
After announcing the Arriola trade, United sent $250,000 from that stockpile to Nashville for an international roster slot.
So what’s next? The first task is finalizing the acquisition of Greek forward Taxiarchis Fountas from Austrian side Rapid Vienna. Like Arriola, he will be an MLS designated player, the classification for the league’s highest-paid talent. At $7 million over three seasons, Fountas will top United’s salary chart.
Although the initial deal prevents Fountas from joining United until the summer, the clubs are in talks about allowing him to move in the coming weeks. If that happens, United would have to pay a transfer fee.
Besides Fountas, D.C. is aiming to acquire at least two impact attackers, one of whom would be a designated player, Kasper said. A person close to the search said United has targeted Ecuadoran forward Michael Estrada, 25, from Mexican club Toluca.
Losada, entering his second season, has been “involved in all of our offseason planning,” along with General Manager Lucy Rushton, Kasper said. United also is sorting out its central midfield — it has yet to re-sign Júnior Moreno and Felipe Martins — and is eyeing a goalkeeper to challenge starter Bill Hamid.
With United more than a week into training camp, Kasper said the goal is “to get our additions in here sometime in preseason so they can acclimate, but obviously it’s a long season.”
Also, United is preparing to sell 18-year-old Kevin Paredes to German club Wolfsburg for a club-record $7 million. To fill Paredes’s role at left wing back, United is finalizing a trade with the Seattle Sounders for 27-year-old Australian Brad Smith, two people close to the situation said. United will relinquish general allocation money. It’s also entertaining offers for 19-goal scorer Ola Kamara, 32, whose contract expires after this season.
United’s other key attackers are designated player Edison Flores, Nigel Robertha and Adrien Perez, who combined for six goals and eight assists in 51 appearances last year.
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