D.C. United completed a cost-cutting housecleaning yesterday that saw the club rid itself of seven players from last season’s underachieving team, which had an 8-18-6 record, the second worst in Major League Soccer.
Goalkeeper Tom Presthus, forward A.J. Wood, midfielder Antonio Otero and defender Geoff Aunger were dealt to other MLS clubs in a flurry of draft day moves. Carlos Llamosa, Jeff Agoos and Richie Williams were traded over the weekend.
The Presthus trade may be the most significant of United’s deals. Late Sunday night, United sent the 25-year-old Presthus and the 10th overall pick to the Columbus Crew for the third pick in the draft. With that selection, United chose Clemson midfielder Mark Lisi.
“I talked a couple of days ago and [United] said they wanted to get me, so I crossed my fingers to go to D.C.,” said Lisi, a first-team All-American who led the Tigers with 15 goals and eight assists. “I’m a creator and with Marco [Etcheverry, United’s playmaker] I can lay balls off to Jaime [Moreno].”
Knowing that MLS is finalizing its plans to sell its right-flank midfielder Ben Olsen to English club Nottingham Forest for an estimated $2.5 million, United drafted another midfielder, New Zealander Ryan Nelsen, with the fourth overall pick.
Nelsen, who played at Stanford, was the Pac-10’s Player of the Year and a member of New Zealand’s Under-23 team. Nelsen, who has been capped by New Zealand’s national team, is projected to start in place of Williams at defensive midfield.
For the second consecutive draft, United chose the youngest player signed by the MLS. Last year, it was Bobby Convey and this year it’s Baltimore’s Santino Quaranta. Quaranta, at 16 years and four months, edged Convey by four months.
United chose Quaranta, a forward, with the eighth overall pick acquired from the San Jose Earthquakes in the Agoos trade. Quaranta, a member of the U.S. Under-17 team, is “technically sound and plays with a lot of pace,” according to U-17 coach John Ellinger.
“This is a dream come true,” Quaranta said. “It feels great being the youngest. Bobby [Convey] is a great guy and I’m going to the best organization in the league.”
Convey was thrust into a starting position last year because his teammates were unproductive, but United plans to bring Quaranta along slowly.
“Given the experience we had last year with Bobby, we had to look at this young man,” United president Kevin Payne said.
In the second round the 15th pick overall United selected Bradley midfielder Bryan Namoff, a two-time Missouri Valley Conference first-team selection. United chose Richmond defender Craig Ziadie in the third round with the 28th overall pick. Ziadie was named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year. The team took North Carolina forward Caleb Norkus in the fifth round with the 50th overall pick and Indiana goalkeeper T.J. Hannig in the sixth round (62nd overall).
With all the trades and newcomers, United is sure to have a new look. Etcheverry, Moreno, Convey, Chris Albright, Eddie Pope, Carey Talley, Eric Denton, Judah Cooks, Micah Cooks, Raul Diaz Arce, Ray Goodlett, Sergio Salas, and Mark Simpson are the only players who return from last season’s squad. And only Etcheverry and Pope have been with the club since its inception in 1996. In the offseason, United added two more players, central defender Mark Watson and midfielder Jose “Chino” Alegria.
The trades over the weekend brought goalkeeper Mike Ammann from the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, defender/midfielder Brian Kamler from the Miami Fusion, and forward Abdul Thompson Conteh from the Earthquakes.
United’s wheeling and dealing continued during yesterday’s SuperDraft.
The club sent Wood to the Kansas City Wizards for the 36th overall pick, which was then traded along with Aunger to the Colorado Rapids for the 18th overall pick. United then traded the 18th pick to the Fusion for a 2002 second rounder. In a straight up deal, United traded Otero and future considerations to the Fusion for the 28th overall pick and used that pick on Ziadie.
“Obviously, this has been a remarkable couple of days,” Payne said. “We didn’t come down here to do as much as we did. We’re very excited of all the players we drafted. We think our top four players are the best players in the draft. We accomplished our plan to get younger and under the salary cap. We’ve made some decisions and it’s time to move forward now.”