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DC United coach Ben Olsen explains departure of Rafael: "You don’t know how these guys adapt"

WASHINGTON – Following D.C. United’s 3-1 victory over New England in the US Open Cup, coach Ben Olsen addressed the club’s announcement that it mutually parted ways with Brazilian Young Designated Player Rafael.

After the forward’s acquisition was heralded by the club as a “major announcement” this preseason, Rafael fell out of favor and played 31 minutes in the club’s previous seven matches. He finished with seven appearances (four starts) and scored one goal in 331 minutes.

“Any time you get a foreigner in this league there’s a percentage that it’s not going to work out,” Olsen said. “We’ve seen that over the course of this league. … So we took a chance on him that he would adapt to our league and he would adapt to the style of play and be the guy that would fit for us. And in the end he wasn’t.”

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Rafael’s only goal of the MLS season came on March 23 at RFK Stadium against the Columbus Crew. Earlier this season, the team also parted ways with Panamanian midfielder Marcos Sánchez.

“Again, you don’t know how these guys adapt," Olsen said. "You watch them and you have an idea about them and they come and, do they grow? Some take two weeks and all of a sudden they click with another forward or your team.”

Olsen also pointed to D.C.’s poor play to start the season as a detractor to Rafael’s performance.

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“I will say this: We weren’t a great team, either,” Olsen said. “We didn’t give him the greatest service when he was in there, we didn’t give him a lot of chance to have success. I didn’t give him more than two, three, four real games to really give him a full chance.”

In a statement published on the team’s website, Dave Kasper cited the progression of forward Casey Townsend as a contributing factor in the decision, as well as the club’s desire to free up an international roster spot ahead of the summer transfer window opening.

“I thought the contract was set up in the right way where if it didn’t work out, we could get out of it and he could find an opportunity,” Olsen said. “Because he’s a very young, talented forward and the last thing he needs to do is be sitting on the bench.”