Meet the 2021 DC United

DC United preview: A new identity on and off the pitch

Ready for the start of the 2021 MLS season but need a refresher on your D.C. United knowledge? Here is what you need to know about the Black and Red heading into their 26th season.

New Head Coach

Hernan Losada
Beerschot’s head coach Hernan Losada pictured during a soccer match between Beerschot VA and Club Brugge, on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021 in Antwerp. (Photo by BRUNO FAHY/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

After finishing the 2020 season in 13th place in the Eastern Conference with a 5-12-6 record, D.C. Untied made its first coaching change in a decade.

Hernán Losada enters his first season in D.C. He was previously the head coach of Beerschot, a club in Antwerp, Belgium, where he was a player for the club on three separate occasions. He led Beerschot in a promotion to the first division in Belgium.

As for the playing style he prefers for United this season, Losada has made it clear he wants to build a team identity of high pressing, attacking soccer. He mentioned his team needed to be the fittest team in the league to execute his tactics.

Losada is used to getting the best out of his players and has said the team is working extremely hard and are buying into his philosophy. He likes to play a 3-5-2, with the outside midfielders as

New Acquisitions:

Nigel Robertha of Netherlands and Jason Breitenbach of Germany battle for the ball during the U18 four nations friendly tournament match between Netherlands and Germany. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Nigel Robertha:

  • A 23-year-old Dutch forward. He previously played for Levski Sofia, a first division Bulgarian side.
  • He represented the Netherlands’ youth national team, Feyenoord Academy product.
  • He scored 17 goals in 38 appearances for Levski Sofia over the course of two seasons.

Jovanny Bolivar (Loan):

  • A 19-year-old Venezuelan on loan from Venezuelan first division side Deportivo La Guaira.
  • He has represented Venezuela U-20 national team.
  • Bolivar was acquired March 9 and comes from the same club as United’s USL affiliate Loudoun United’s recent acquisition, Darluis Paz.

Brendan Hines-Ike (Loan):

  • A 26-year-old American center back who previously played for KV Kortrijk, in the Belgian first division.
  • He played three seasons at Creighton and one season at USF.
  • He was drafted by Montreal in 2016, however he had already signed for Swedish Club Örebro SK, where he made 70 appearances in the Swedish top flight.

Michael DeShields:

  • A 22-year-old center back from Baltimore, who played four seasons at Wake Forest.
  • He was selected fifth overall in 2021 MLS SuperDraft.
  • He was named 2016 Maryland Boys Soccer Gatorade Player of the Year, representing McDonogh High School and Baltimore Celtic.

Kimarni Smith:

  • The 23-year-old from Nottingham, England, was drafted fourth overall by United.
  • He played four seasons at Clemson, and finished his career with 26 goals and 11 assists.
  • He was named 2020 ACC Tournament MVP.
  • He is likely familiar with attacking fellow ACC player and D.C. draftee, Michael DeShields.

Logan Panchot (Trialist):

  • A 22-year-old Stanford defender, NCAA Champion and two-time Pac-12 Champion.
  • He was drafted 32nd overall by D.C. in the 2021 MLS Draft.
  • His dad played professionally in Germany, and his brother Austin plays at the University of Indiana.

Adrien Perez:

  • A 25-year-old forward from Loyola Marymount University (California).
  • He was selected by United in the 2020 re-entry draft, and joined the club in January 2021.
  • He was called up to Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) preseason in 2019 after leading the MASL in scoring, with an impressive 47 goals in 28 appearances.
  • He was a member of LAFC during the 2019 and 2020 MLS seasons, scoring once in 21 appearances.

Antonio “Tony” Alfaro

  • A 27-year-old defender traded from the Seattle Sounders. United gave up a second-round pick in the 2022 SuperDraft and future considerations as part of the deal.
  • The Mexican made 31 appearances in three seasons for Seattle and also played for their USL affiliate, the Tacoma Defiance.
  • Alfaro is well traveled since playing college soccer at California State University, Dominguez Hills, in NCAA Division II. He also played in Mexico for Chivas Guadalajara and Atlético Zacatepec.

Jacob Greene (Homegrown):

  • He makes the 15th homegrown signing in D.C. United history, and he is 18 years old.
  • He was born and raised in Crofton, Maryland.
  • He has made 15 appearances and logged more than 1,000 minutes with Loudoun United.

Key Players:

After a tough 2020 season, D.C. United midfielder Edison Flores (right) will look to live up to his status as a designated player. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Edison Flores:

  • The 26-year-old Peruvian International enters his second MLS season.
  • He was signed last January for a club record $5 million fee.
  • His 2020 season was underwhelming as he finished with 3 assists in 13 appearances.
  • He missed several games because of facial fractures.

Frédéric Brillant:

  • The 35-year-old Frenchman enters his fourth season in D.C. and sixth in MLS.
  • He played for Beerschot during the 2012-2013 season, when coach Losada was also a player at the club.

Russel Canouse:

  • Still only 25 years old, the midfield/utility man enters his fifth season in D.C.
  • He made his Bundesliga debut at the age of 20, under successful manager Julian Nagelsmann (currently at RB Leipzig) who is quite young himself, at the age of 33.

Joseph Mora:

  • The 28-year-old Costa Rican international enters his fourth MLS season.
  • He made 21 appearances for United last year.
  • It will be interesting to see how he fits in to the team as he is mainly a left back, but has made three career appearances at left-midfield with D.C. This makes him a likely candidate for Losada’s wingback style.

Junior Moreno:

  • This Venezuelan international enters fourth season in D.C.
  • At 27 years old, he is likely entering his prime footballing years.

Yamil Asad:

  • The 26-year-old Argentine enters his third season wearing a black and red jersey, but only entering his second as a United player. He previously played in Atlanta.
  • In 2020, United permanently signed Asad from Argentine club Vélez Sarsfield, after a successful 2018 season on loan in D.C.

Bill Hamid:

  • The second year of three-year contract was signed in December 2019.
  • The 30-year-old homegrown enters his 13th season in D.C.
  • Offseason hernia surgery was not supposed to keep him out for any of the season, however he is now out four-to-six weeks with a calf strain.

Ola Kamara:

  • He enters his sixth season in MLS, and his third for DC United where the striker continues to search for his previous form from when he played for the Columbus Crew and the LA Galaxy.
  • The 31-year-old Norwegian has scored 135 goals in his career, but has only been able to find the back of the net seven times in his first two (short) seasons in D.C.


After spending his winter on loan in England, D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola will start his 2021 season recovering from an injury. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
  • Paul Arriola announced March 31, that he would return to D.C. and would be out for four-to-six weeks because of a quadricep injury. His loan to English Football League side Swansea City was cut short as their season is likely to end before Arriola is healthy. He played most of his short appearance in England in a forward pairing rather than at wingback.
  • Felipe Martins tore his ACL on Sept. 1, 2020, had surgery Sept. 4, and will be out for a long period of time. The Brazilian extended his contract with the club in January through the 2021 season, with an option for the 2022 season.
  • Steven Birnbaum needed a second surgery on his ankle on March 15, announced to be out 12-15 weeks. His injury kept him out of the final eight games of last season. The goal was originally to be back by the end of preseason, however now June is the likely return date.
  • Bill Hamid was close to a return after an offseason hernia surgery, however missed the majority of the preseason with a calf strain.
  • Kevin Paredes has not appeared during preseason due to a lingering injury carried over from last season. However there is hope he will be 100% fit in the coming weeks.
  • Yordy Reyna out for approximately six weeks after picking up a hamstring injury during United’s preseason game against Loudoun United.
  • Chris Odoi Atsem appeared in the first preseason session. However, he has been out since then. No further information is available on his injury.

Preseason News

United started their offseason with a historic hire, hiring Danita Johnson as its new president of business operations. She became the first Black president of a Major League Soccer team, and only the third woman to serve in the role in league history.

The club now ends the preseason making another critical hire, brining on Lucy Rushton as the team’s new general manger. Coming over from Atlanta United, Rushton becomes the highest ranking woman executive in charge of player personal in the league.

Despite all the changes around the organization, United reached out to its past to fill out the roster. Former academy product Andy Najar and former MLS SuperDraft first-round pick Rodney Wallace were among several preseason trialists looking to earn a spot with the team.

United confirmed the day before the season opener that Najar, a Honduran international, signed a one-year deal. He rejoins the Black and Red after spending six years playing in Belgium and playing with LAFC for the 2020 season.

In the preseason, United finished with a 1-2-2 record with their only win coming in a 5-1 result against their USL) affiliate Loudoun United.

Opening Day

To kickoff the 2021 season, D.C. United will take on New York City FC Saturday at 8 p.m., and for the first time in over a year, a game will have some fans in attendance at Audi Field.

The D.C. government approved a waiver for 25% capacity — about 5,000 fans — for games at the Buzzard Point stadium.

Fans who could not get a ticket will still have various ways to watch the game from home. D.C. United signed a new television deal with NBC Sports Washington family of networks for English broadcasts, and for the first time in club history, games will be available in Spanish on TeleXitos, Telemundo 44’s multicast network.

The home opener will available on NBC Sports Washington Plus; TeleXitos and can be streamed on D.C. United’s website for free.

Projected Starting XI vs. NYCFC:

Forwards: Kamara, Robertha
Midfielders: Mora, Flores, Canouse, Moreno, Gressel
Defenders: Pines, Brillant, Hines-Ike
GK: Hamid

Drew Peterson and WTOP’s José Umaña contributed to this report.

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson is Senior Sports Director and morning sports anchor. He first arrived at WTOP in 1989, left in 1992 and returned in 1995. He is a three-time winner of the A.I.R. award as best radio sportscaster in D.C. In 2008 he won the Edward R. Murrow award for best writing for sports commentaries.

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