WASHINGTON – D.C. United’s players and fans got a chance to rub shoulders on Saturday afternoon, as hundreds attended the team’s annual preseason season ticket holder event at a popular Georgetown watering hole.
For many fans in attendance, the event gave them their first in-person look at United’s new home jersey. It also gave the media who attended the event their first real opportunity of the new year to bug D.C. boss Ben Olsen, as the head coach fielded questions for over 20 minutes in a back hallway at the restaurant.
Very quickly, questions turned towards two of D.C.’s higher-profile offseason targets: AC Milan and one-time Italian national team midfielder Antonio Nocerino, and Boca Juniors playmaker Luciano Acosta.
The club’s interest in Nocerino has been well-known – both United and Orlando City have shown interest in the midfielder, and D.C. were reported to be considering pursuing a tampering charge against OCSC earlier this week. Acosta, though, is a more recent development, one first reported by Argentine journalist Lucho Torres Toranzo and elaborated upon by the Washington Post’s Steven Goff.
Either player – or both of them – would go a long way towards helping United in central midfield, perhaps filling a void left by the departure of Perry Kitchen and the still to be determined status of Davy Arnaud, who continues to recover from a concussion.
On Saturday, Olsen was a bit coy when asked about Acosta, but still seemed to leave it fairly clear that United and the Argentine have had serious discussions.
"He’s a player that we know of,” Olsen told MLSsoccer.com. "Put it that way. We know of a few players right now overseas that we’re tracking and interested in and we’ll see in the next few days how a few of these shake out.”
When pressed a bit further on whether the two sides are approaching a deal, Olsen smiled. "We know him pretty well. I’ll leave it at that.”
In regards to Nocerino, Olsen was similarly hesitant to offer any specific confirmation that a deal was approaching.
"We know of him as well,” said Olsen. "We know of a lot of these guys and you kind of move down the road with these guys of interest – some pan out, some don’t. We have some money to spend so we’re definitely going to have at least two additions to the team and we’re looking forward to those guys enhancing our already talented group.”
Still a couple of years away from moving into a new stadium, United have long employed a budget-conscious approach to their offseason moves, leaving some United fans wondering whether the club would be wiling to sign both Nocerino and Acosta, or whether it’s more of a “one or the other” situation.
Is there room in United’s budget for both players? “Yes,” Olsen responded, suggesting that United might employ one of MLS’ newest financial mechanisms to ease their financial burden.
"I don’t know what you guys know about TAM [targeted allocation money],” Olsen asked rhetorically, "but I know about it. I know all about it. I spent the offseason studying how best to use it. That has helped to bolster this group."