United adds star power in lost sea­son

Trans­fer fee to sign Ar­riola team record

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY THOMAS FLOYD

As D.C. United in­tro­duced a quar­tet of mid­sea­son re­in­force­ments — in­clud­ing the most ex­pen­sive sign­ing in club his­tory — the nar­ra­tive wrote it­self.

For a last-place club mired in an 0-6-1 skid, the un­veil­ing of play­maker Zoltan Stieber, de­fen­sive mid­fielder Rus­sell Canouse, for­ward Bruno Mi­randa and winger Paul Ar­riola of­fered a sil­ver lin­ing to a seem­ingly lost sea­son.

While United sits 13 points out of a play­off spot with 11 matches re­main­ing, those ad­di­tions have the club poised for a brighter fu­ture when its long-awaited soc­cer-spe­cific sta­dium, Audi Field, opens next year in South­west.

But that’s not the sto­ry­line be­ing spun in the United locker room — not yet, at least.

“We got tal­ent, we’ve filled po­si­tional needs and we’re very, very ex­cited, not only about Audi Field but this year,” United gen­eral man­ager Dave Kasper said, “be­cause this sea­son is not over.”

Even if qual­i­fy­ing for the post­sea­son comes across as a pipe dream, the mind­set sends a mes­sage about the club’s plans for the home stretch of its fi­nal sea­son at RFK Sta­dium — start­ing when Real Salt Lake (7-12-5) vis­its United (5-14-4) on Satur­day.

“We need to get more points and still make our team rel­e­vant over the next cou­ple months and see if we can’t make a run at this thing,” coach Ben Olsen said. “I haven’t ruled us out. Ev­ery­body has,

but I think the guys are still very com­mit­ted to make this thing in­ter­est­ing.”

For a club with a league-worst 19 goals scored in 23 games, Ar­riola rep­re­sents a par­tic­u­larly wel­come in­jec­tion of at­tack­ing vigor. Although United, per league pol­icy, did not an­nounce the trans­fer fee the club paid to sign the 22-yearold from Mex­ico’s Club Ti­juana this week, D.C. did con­firm it was the largest pay­ment in team his­tory.

Known for his speed and un­re­lent­ing work ethic, Ar­riola emerged as a U.S. na­tional team reg­u­lar this sum­mer — earn­ing the nod for a World Cup qual­i­fier against Mex­ico and start­ing all three knock­out-round games as the Amer­i­cans won the CON­CA­CAF Gold Cup last month.

Ar­riola is ex­pected to man the right flank for United, while Stieber — a 28-year-old Hun­gary na­tional team vet­eran — is poised to play on the left. In Canouse, 22, and Mi­randa, 19, the club also has bol­stered its ros­ter with a pair of en­tic­ing prospects.

“Bring­ing in play­ers brings, I think, some hunger to the team,” Canouse said. “Me per­son­ally, I’m go­ing to come in to fight. I’m ready to go. And I think it’s pretty spe­cial for every­one com­ing in now to have an op­por­tu­nity to be a part of the tra­di­tion of RFK and slowly tran­si­tion into Audi Field.”

The buildup to Wed­nes­day’s trade and trans­fer dead­line wasn’t only about in­com­ing tal­ent, with United send­ing de­fender Bobby Boswell to At­lanta and mid­fielder-for­ward La­mar Nea­gle to Seat­tle in ex­change for draft picks.

Both play­ers played in­flu­en­tial roles in the club’s run to the post­sea­son last year, but the vet­er­ans were deemed ex­pend­able as United looked to clear ros­ter space for this week’s flurry of sign­ings.

“If you don’t do well and you’re in last place, no one’s re­ally safe,” de­fender Steve Birn­baum said. “Ob­vi­ously we’ve got some­thing to prove.”

If noth­ing else, the play­ers in United’s locker room un­der­stand the com­ing months could serve as an au­di­tion for a 2018 ros­ter slot. As a reloaded squad looks to also send out RFK in style and set the tone for Audi Field’s in­tro­duc­tion, there sud­denly is re­newed en­ergy go­ing into the fi­nal 11 matches of 2017.

“I’m con­fi­dent that we’re go­ing to make the play­offs for the years to come,” Ar­riola said. “But the sea­son’s not over. I think every­one in the locker room, no one has put their head down — at least from what I’ve seen. I’m ask­ing to get on the field as quickly as I can be­cause [it’s] one game at a time and you never know what can hap­pen.”


Paul Ar­riola (left) is ex­pected to man the right flank for D.C. United af­ter it paid a team-record trans­fer fee to sign him from Mex­ico’s Club Ti­juana this week.

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