- - Thursday, March 3, 2016

Marcelo Sarvas has come to recognize the ebbs and flows of an MLS roster. After the Colorado Rapids went a Western Conference-worst 9-15-10 last season, he saw the writing on the wall.

First off, he’s 34 years old. With $425,000 in guaranteed compensation last season, he also boasted the club’s second-highest salary. For a team looking to rebuild, those attributes made him expendable.

“You always expect change in a team that doesn’t have a good season,” Sarvas said. “Of course, they targeted players with high salaries or older players. My experience in soccer could tell me something could happen, but you are not prepared to hear you are getting traded.”



As part of their offseason overhaul, the Rapids dealt Sarvas to D.C. United last month for cash considerations and a conditional 2018 draft pick. After just three weeks of camp with his new teammates, Sarvas started both matches of United’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal loss to Mexican club Queretaro.

The slick-passing central midfielder is set to again get the nod when United opens its MLS campaign on the road Sunday against one of his former clubs, the L.A. Galaxy.

“He’s a veteran player, and he brings a lot of energy too,” United defender Steve Birnbaum said. “He’s a livewire, so he does a good job dictating the tempo of the game.”

Slowed by right knee surgery last spring, Sarvas started just 21 of 34 matches during his single season in Colorado.

He has arrived in Washington with high expectations, being asked to help fill the gap in central midfield left by the retirement of Davy Arnaud — announced Thursday amid the veteran’s ongoing concussion issues — and the departure of club stalwart Perry Kitchen.

“For me as a player, you think about where you’re going and what kind of team you’re going to,” Sarvas said. “Everything settled down very fast because of the club, the team, the players. It was a good trade for me.”

Sarvas signed with the Galaxy in 2012 after his globe-trotting career had taken him to clubs in Brazil, Sweden, Poland and Costa Rica. He made 113 appearances in MLS play over three years in Southern California, helping the Galaxy to a pair of MLS Cup titles.

The Sao Paulo native enjoyed his most prolific campaign in 2014, notching five goals and 13 assists through the regular season and playoffs, but was dealt to the Rapids the subsequent offseason as the Galaxy set up the acquisition of former England captain Steven Gerrard.

Thus far, Sarvas has been asked to temper his attacking instincts with United. Playing alongside converted winger Nick DeLeon in both matches against Queretaro, Sarvas found himself pressing less than usual and offering more defensive discipline.

“We’re asking Celo to change what he’s about a little bit to complement Nicky,” coach Ben Olsen said. “He’s a guy that gets it, and he’s a good link for our group. He’s a good veteran presence that has been through it and also has been on teams that have been successful, and he knows what it takes.”

Added DeLeon: “He’s a fun guy to play with. He’s a very attack-minded midfielder as well. He likes to bomb forward in certain spots. For me and him, it’s just about finding a balance. When one goes, one has to cover.”

In addition to serving as a conduit for the defense and attack, Sarvas has quickly developed into a locker room link between the squad’s English- and Spanish-speaking contingents.

While his transition with United is coming along, Sarvas hasn’t had much time to acclimate off the field. With his wife, 8-year-old son and 11-month-old daughter on the way, he has leaned on his new teammates to help him find the right neighborhood for his family.

Although it will be a while before Sarvas truly feels settled, he sees a situation that has the makings of another enjoyable chapter in an eventful career.

“The hardest part is always the family,” Sarvas said. “But, we’ve been in this life for a while, and my wife is always with me. In the end, everything was very positive.”

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