Photo by ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
WASHINGTON — D.C. United have been busy on the personnel front lately, to say the least. As the club debuted the trio of Luis Silva, Jared Jeffrey and Collin Martin at training Wednesday, coach Ben Olsen didn’t hesitate to explain the emerging philosophy.
“We want to continue building our base of quality young Americans,” Olsen said. “We’re always going to have our foreigners on this team, and they’re always going to help us. But we’re in a situation now where I think we need to build a base over the next year or two and really make sure we don’t have dips like we’ve had up to this point.”
Those “dips” would be the slew of losses the club has suffered this season en route to a 2-13-4 mark just a year after advancing within one game of hosting the MLS Cup.
After releasing Panamanian midfielder Marcos Sanchez and Brazilian attackers Raphael Augusto and Rafael, the club has revamped its youthful depth contingent by acquiring Jeffrey through the waiver draft last week, trading for Silva from Toronto FC on Tuesday, and signing academy product Collin Martin on Wednesday.
The acquisition of Martin, who forfeited his final three years of eligibility at Wake Forest after leading the team in assists this past fall, re-emphasizes the importance of D.C.’s youth academy, which has already produced the likes of Andy Najar, Bill Hamid and Ethan White.
“We’ve always invested in our academy,” Olsen said. “The talent that has come through there has helped us on the field in first-team games, and we’re looking to continue to have guys graduate.”
Here are some more notes from RFK Stadium on Wednesday:
ROCHAT SET TO JOIN YOUNG BOYS
United are at a delicate stage in negotiations to finalize the transfer of defender Alain Rochat to Swiss club BSC Young Boys, a source with knowledge of the situation said.
D.C. had been looking to extend Rochat, who was acquired from the Vancouver Whitecaps in early June and has one year left on his contract. But after ripping his trade experience as “terrible” and not “human” last month, Rochat informed the club of his preference to move back to Switzerland with his wife and four children — if not during this transfer window, then when his current deal expires.
It was Young Boys who approached United and made the club an offer it couldn’t refuse, the source said, noting D.C. preferred the transfer fee over the prospect of only having Rochat for one more season.
SILVA ADDS CREATIVITY
With just eight goals scored in 19 matches, D.C. United have by far the least-potent attacking force in MLS. Enter Silva, who compiled five goals and seven assists in 44 games as a creative presence for Toronto over the past season and a half.
“He brings a vision that a lot of our guys don’t have right now,” Olsen said. “Maybe that will help us in the offensive end with our lack of productivity.”
While Silva said that “in Toronto they played me a little bit everywhere,” including on the flank and as a withdrawn forward, he made clear he feels attacking midfielder is his best position.
Considering United have had few issues maintaining possession but typically lack that killer ball in the final third, Silva hopes he can be the right piece to get that attack clicking.
“I’ve been watching a lot of D.C. football,” Silva said. “I know how they play, their style. They like to keep the ball, and I think I’ll fit in perfect.”
MARTIN MAKES THE JUMP
With preseason preparations for his sophomore campaign at Wake Forest nearing, Martin two weeks ago began contemplating his future. He recognized D.C. was entering a bit of a rebuilding phase, and the possibility of a homegrown deal with the club became more tempting.
“I thought it was a good time for me,” Martin said. “Since last week, I knew that I really wanted to do this and started to talk about it more seriously, numbers-wise and how I fit in.”
Olsen said Martin isn’t MLS-ready at the moment, and the player conceded he physically still has a long way to go. But mentally, Martin feels prepared to contribute, whether it’s as a central midfielder, a winger or a withdrawn forward.
“I just know that no matter what,” Martin said, “as long as I work hard and play well and show that I can improve, then there might be a spot.”
While Olsen said a loan to D.C.’s affiliate, the third-tier Richmond Kickers, is a “consideration” for Martin, he noted that club is late in its season and enjoying a good rhythm.
When it comes to United’s friendly at RFK Stadium on Friday against Chivas Guadalajara, however, Olsen isn’t hesitating.
“I want to get him in right away,” Olsen said. “I’ve got no problem putting the kid in there. He’s turned pro.”
JEFFREY RELISHING OPPORTUNITY
A part of German side Mainz’s reserve squad for the past three years, Jeffrey signed up with MLS two weeks ago and waited for his fate to be decided. Then the phone rang.
“I just got a call saying, ‘Hey, you’re going to D.C. Get ready,’” Jeffrey said. ”D.C. United obviously is historically one of the greatest organizations in MLS. It’s a privilege to wear the crest and be here. It seems like a really good group, and I’m looking forward to kind of being here for a while and developing with them.”
Most comfortable as a holding midfielder, Jeffrey adds depth at a position where D.C. United have auditioned myriad players next to Perry Kitchen — Jeffrey’s former teammate with the U.S. under-23 national team.
When it comes to acclimating to a new group, Jeffrey has found that existing relationship invaluable.
“It’s so nice, it’s so crucial,” Jeffrey said. “Previously I’ve been in Europe and you just go in there blind, not knowing anybody, not knowing the language. Not only Perry, but a lot of the guys have been so welcoming so far.”
What do you think of D.C. United’s personnel moves? Are Silva, Jeffrey and Martin good additions? Will Rochat’s departure be a tough blow?
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