MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Official: DC United sign free agent Pedro Santos



UPDATE (Nov. 21) - D.C. United have officially signed free agent defender Pedro Santos, the club announced Monday.

Santos joins the Black-and-Red on a two-year contract through 2024 after spending the previous six seasons with the Columbus Crew.

“Pedro is an experienced veteran and has been a top attacking talent in the league since 2017,” D.C. United president of soccer operations Dave Kasper said in a release. “He will provide us with important versatility and will give us some creativity and playmaking ability. We’re excited to integrate him into the team as we continue to rebuild ahead of the 2023 season."

ORIGINAL (Nov. 18) - D.C. United and free agent left back Pedro Santos have agreed on a contract ahead of the 2023 MLS season, sources tell

Santos is among the top defenders on the free agent market and won MLS Cup 2020 with the Columbus Crew. His arrival would continue the Black-and-Red's roster rebuild under head coach Wayne Rooney, who took over in mid-July.

Santos, 34, spent the last five and a half years with the Crew, making 155 appearances after playing for Braga in his native Portugal. He was originally signed by Columbus as a Designated Player winger and was productive – including a career-best 2019 season with 11 goals and six assists – but transitioned to an attacking fullback in recent years to good effect.

The Portuguese defender has been consistently available, appearing in all but 13 of the Crew's 159 MLS games the last five seasons, starting 139 of them.

D.C. United's need

After declining the contract option for injured left back Brad Smith (ACL tear), D.C. didn't have a natural left back on their roster for 2023. It's expected that Santos would become a key piece in their starting XI.

D.C. United are experiencing a rebuild under Rooney, which started in the summer when striker Christian Benteke, midfielder Ravel Morrison, midfielder Victor Palsson and more were signed. They will be busy this winter with further additions and remain active on the free agent market, sources say.

The Eastern Conference club finished bottom of the MLS table in 2022 (0.79 points per game). They started the season with Hernan Losada as head coach, but quickly parted ways with the Argentine before turning to interim manager Chad Ashton and then Rooney.

D.C.'s roster was built in a high pressing/transition ethos when Losada joined ahead of 2021, but the future looks different under Rooney. They're also searching for a new general manager after parting ways with Lucy Rushton in mid-October.

Free agent market

Alongside Santos, top left-back options on the market include Smith and ex-FC Cincinnati defender Ronald Matarrita, who's at the World Cup with Costa Rica. Santos is among the first free-agent deals to be struck after conversations began Wednesday afternoon. The first deal to be reported was the New York Red Bulls signing ex-Philadelphia Union striker Cory Burke.

The free agent pool remains deep, with goalkeeper Sean Johnson; center backs Alex Callens, Aaron Long and Matt Hedges; winger Derrick Etienne Jr. and many more still available.