- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

After going through changes in ownership and the coaching staff in recent weeks and trading two of its most recognizable players, D.C. United finally began rebuilding yesterday. The team introduced its latest signing, Brazilian forward Luciano Emilio from Honduran club CD Olimpia, at a press conference at RFK Stadium.

“We have undergone some changes in the last few months,” United technical director Dave Kasper said. “Luciano is the first piece, and we will continue to add more pieces as we move along. We have a strong core of returning players, and we will sprinkle in more players.”

Emilio is the first player signed under new coach Tom Soehn and the first key player to join the team since United traded Freddy Adu and 2004 MLS Cup MVP Alecko Eskandarian this offseason.

“Emilio in his career has done a lot more than some of those players,” Soehn said. “A lot of those changes were people who weren’t seeing the field too much. Emilio is a proven goal scorer. We had a wish list of guys, and he was at the top of my list.”

Kasper said the team had been seeking to sign the Brazilian for the last three years. The 28-year-old is considered one of the top strikers in Central America. Last year he was the leading goal scorer in Honduras with 13 goals, helping Olimpia win the Apertura championship.

“I had a chance to watch MLS games on TV,” Emilio said through a translator. “It is a very physical league and demanding. Fortunately I’ve played in Germany, which is also physical. We Brazilians are traditionally known for our technical football, but we can also be physical.”

Emilio speaks Portuguese, Spanish and some German. Soehn, whose parents are German, has been communicating with him in that language.

“My first goal here is to win a championship, and secondly I want to be the top goal scorer,” Emilio said.

The 5-foot-11, 175 pound Emilio, whom Kasper called “a team player, big, strong and dynamic,” brings needed height to United’s front line.

Brazilians have not always fared well in MLS, but Emilio arrives in his prime, having won the scoring title four times in the Honduran league.

“His goal scoring records speak for itself,” Kasper said.

Coincidentally, his first game for United will be against his old club in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where the fans and media were not happy with his move to America. United will play Olimpia in a two-game series in the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup next month. The first game is in Honduras on Feb 20-22, and the second game takes place a week later at RFK Stadium.

“Obviously I know [Olimpia] well,” Emilio said. “It’s very complicated to play against your old team, but I know their style, and it will make my transition here easier.”

Emilio arrives at MLS at a time when the league has been in the spotlight over English star David Beckham’s impending move to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

“I think Beckham’s arrival is a plus for the league and will raise the profile of MLS,” Emilio said. “I don’t come in the same fashion as Beckham does.”

Emilio began his professional career at age 16 in Brazil and two years later moved to Germany, where he played for FC Cologne and later Aachen.

Kasper also said the team nearly had finalized a new contract with midfielder Brian Carroll. Club officials also confirmed United is expected to play the Los Angeles Galaxy late this season at RFK, with Beckham expected to be with the club by then.

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