DC United add Pedro Santos to fill the gap at left-back

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DC United on Monday announced the signing of left-back Pedro Santos to a two-year deal, filling a gap in their line-up in Wayne Rooney’s first full season as manager.

Santos, a 34-year-old free agent, has spent the last six seasons with the Columbus Crew after signing with Portugal side Braga’s team in 2017 for a club-record $2.3 million at the time. An attacking midfielder who switched to defense last season, the Lisbon native recorded 23 goals and 34 assists in 155 regular-season games with the Crew and was a key part of the 2020 MLS Cup-winning team.

“Pedro is a seasoned veteran and has been a top attacking talent in the league since 2017,” said United Sporting Director Dave Kasper in a press release. “He will give us important versatility and give us some creativity and playability. We look forward to bringing him into the team as we continue to rebuild ahead of the 2023 season.”

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Santos was a victim of the salary cap at Columbus, where he was the club’s eighth highest-paid player with guaranteed compensation of $687,500 last season, according to the MLS Players Association. He started in 28 of the crew’s 34 MLS games.

“What a great player during his time at the club,” Crew General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko told Columbus Dispatch. “He is loyal, reliable and has an incredible work rate. I have rarely seen his ability to play a large number of games in a short period of time. He struggled through injuries. Whatever was asked of him, Pedro did it and he did it no questions asked.”

Santos fills a void in United’s back line after the club rejected contract options for full-backs Brad Smith, Sami Guediri and Chris Odoi-Atsem last week.

Smith, an Australian left-back who came via a trade with the Seattle Sounders in January, played in 16 games and made 14 starts last season before tearing an ACL in July. Guediri, 25, signed for United from minor-league subsidiary Loudoun United in July following Smith’s injury and has made 13 appearances (10 starts). Odoi-Atsem, a 27-year-old right-back who often played at left for United, completed 57 games after being selected by the University of Maryland in the first round of the 2017 draft.

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DC remains in the market for a starting goaltender after allowing longtime starter Bill Hamid to go free. The club was eyed Tyler Miller, a 29-year-old MLS veteran and former US national team candidate who has spent the last three seasons with Minnesota United, according to people close to the situation. A deal would likely end talks with David Ochoa, the 21-year-old, who is out of contract after joining United with Real Salt Lake in July.

So did United, who appointed Rooney to manager midway through the 2022 season in which they ended with the league’s worst 7-21-6 record remains in the market for an attacking midfielder.

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