- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This past February, D.C. United coach Ben Olsen spoke of his club’s arduous quest to bring in a true goal-scorer, then looked to prized signing Hamdi Salihi and declared, “We think we’ve found him.” 

Nine months later, as players cleared out their lockers Tuesday, Olsen coped with the realization Salihi wasn’t the answer he had hoped for.

“I think we’re going to have to continue looking for a striker,” Olsen said. “I thought all of our forwards gave us good moments this year. None of them had a real complete year from a playing and scoring and production standpoint.”

Signed on a transfer from Austrian club Rapid Vienna, for which he scored 53 times in three years, Salihi struggled to find a rhythm in 2012, notching just six goals in 22 games (10 starts).

Considering Salihi was United’s second-highest-paid player in 2012 with guaranteed compensation of $487,460, it seems unlikely the front office will retain the 28-year-old Albanian at his current salary.

“I have nothing else in my head now,” said Salihi, who is under contract for 2013. “In the future, you never know because in this business, things can change every day, especially when it’s the transfer time.”

Jakovic signs new contract

Capping a career year during which he started 21 regular-season matches and played every minute of United’s four-game playoff run, center back Dejan Jakovic on Wednesday inked a new deal to keep him in the nation’s capital.

“I am very excited to extend my time here at D.C. United — I love the club, the city, and especially the fans,” Jakovic said. “The club is moving in the right direction every day, and I am proud to be a part of this special group.”

Jakovic, 27, joined United from Serbian side Red Star Belgrade in 2009. Recovering from a midseason ankle injury, the Canadian found his form down the stretch while developing a solid partnership with Brandon McDonald in central defense.

“We are thrilled to have secured his future at our club,” general manager Dave Kasper said. “It is an important objective of ours to keep our back line intact moving into 2013, and this signing is a big step in that direction.”

Per club and league policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Lesson learned for Najar

As United were eliminated Sunday in the second leg of the Eastern Conference final, falling on a 4-2 aggregate to the Houston Dynamo with a 1-1 draw, injuries caused the team to start the match without its leaders this year in goals (Chris Pontius), assists (Dwayne De Rosario) and minutes (McDonald).

But also missing was the flair of Andy Najar, who was serving the final match of a three-game suspension for throwing the ball at referee Jair Marrufo during United’s playoff opener against New York.

It was a bitter end to an up-and-down campaign for the 19-year-old, who was in and out of the lineup to start the season before representing Honduras at the London Olympics and emerging as a dynamic right back late in the year.

“Obviously, it was very difficult for me,” Najar said via a translator. “You learn from your mistakes. You don’t want to commit the same errors again next year.”

Free kicks

Olsen said the status of pricey midfielder Branko Boskovic, who is under contract until next summer but questionable to return, will likely be resolved “in the next day or two.” Boskovic had one goal and seven assists in 26 games (12 starts) before starting all four playoff contests, scoring against Houston on Sunday.

• Goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who practiced last fall with English side West Bromwich Albion, grinned and said, “No comment right now,” when asked if he was poised for another training stint abroad this offseason.

• Aside from bolstering the team’s forward corps, Olsen said adding midfield depth was United’s top personnel concern. The squad suffered there once reserve winger Danny Cruz was traded to Philadelphia in August and Najar made his move to right back.

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