On Soccer: United adds some depth

Struggling with injuries and battling for a playoff spot, D.C. United fortified its roster on Friday, adding three new players before Monday’s transfer deadline.

United brought in South African forward Thabiso “Boyzz” Khumalo, central defender Ibrahim Koroma from Sierra Leone, and American defender Greg Janicki.

All three players have been signed on loan from their respective clubs and are available for United’s game on Saturday against FC Dallas at RFK Stadium.

“With the amount of games we have in this stretch run it was important to add some pieces that we think can help, but it will take time to evaluate,” United coach Tom Soehn said.

Both Khumalo, 27, and Janicki, 24, come from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League’s Second Division, two levels below MLS.

“This is a big club, and it’s been one of my dreams to play for a big club,” Khumalo said. “It will be a challenge as I’ve never been on the big stage before.”

Khumalo, who hails from Soweto, South Africa, came to America when he was 16 as an exchange student.

“He fits in with the way we want to play,” United general manager Dave Kasper said. “He’s good on possession; has the speed and a good soccer brain.”

Koroma, 19, joins United fresh from playing for his country in World Cup qualifying. Last week, he played all 90 minutes for Sierra Leone in the team’s 2-1 win over Equatorial Guinea.

“This is my first pro contract ever and I will try and give my best help to D.C. United,” Koroma said.

Said Kasper: “He’s going to be a bit of a project. This is his first club outside Sierra Leone.”

With the addition of Koroma and Khumalo, United now has four African players, including goalie Louis Crayton and striker Francis Doe, who both hail from Liberia.

“We now have the African connection,” Khumalo said. “I hope it helps D.C.”

Koroma and Janicki have signed on as developmental players, while Khumalo will take the senior roster spot of midfielder Domenic Mediate, who has been placed on the season-ending injury list because of concussion complications.

“When I run, I was getting dizzy and [was] experiencing vertigo,” said Mediate, who has been out of action since the June 23 game against San Jose. “I’m not sure what the problem is. I don’t remember being hit.”

In the last two MLS seasons, United has held the top seed going into the postseason. Now with seven games left United (10-11-2, 32 points) has a losing record and is battling for a wild card berth.

United playmaker Marcelo Gallardo is expected to make his first start at home since June 29. The Argentine midfielder has been sick this week and is struggling to shake off a sore ankle.

Midfielder Fred and defender Gonzalo Peralta are questionable for the game, but leading goal scorer Luciano Emilio is off the injury list.

Dallas (6-9-8, 26 points) is seeking to get three points to challenge United for a wild card. The club is spearheaded by Baltimore native Kenny Cooper and is one player the United defense will have to watch. Cooper, the son of former Baltimore Blast coach Kenny Cooper Sr., is a big, agile striker who has notched 13 goals in 23 games this season and is being watched closely by European teams. MLS turned down bids from Cardiff City and Norway’s Rosenborg in the range of $4 million for Cooper, who spent three years as a youth player with Manchester United.

“He’s quick and light on his feet,” said United midfielder Santino Quaranta, who played against Cooper in high school soccer games in Baltimore.

Team note - United will honor the 1998 D.C. United team that won the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup and the InterAmerican Cup at Saturday’s game.

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