D.C. United adds Pedro Santos to fill a gap at left back


D.C. United announced the signing of left back Pedro Santos to a two-year contract Monday, filling a hole in its lineup heading into Wayne Rooney’s first full season as coach.

Santos, a 34-year-old free agent, had spent the past six seasons with the Columbus Crew after signing with the club from Portuguese side Braga for a then-club record $2.3 million in 2017. An attacking midfielder who shifted to defense last season, the Lisbon native compiled 23 goals and 34 assists over 155 regular season matches with the Crew and was a key part of the team that won the 2020 MLS Cup.

“Pedro is an experienced veteran and has been a top attacking talent in the league since 2017,” United Sporting Director Dave Kasper said in a news 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.”

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Santos was a salary cap casualty in 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 28 of the Crew’s 34 MLS matches.

“What an amazing player during his time at the club,” Crew General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko told the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s loyal, dependable, incredible work rate. His ability to play a large number of matches over a short period of time is something I’ve rarely seen. He fought through injuries. Whatever was asked of him, Pedro did and he did it without asking questions.”

Santos fills a void in the United back line after the club last week declined contract options for fullbacks Brad Smith, Sami Guediri and Chris Odoi-Atsem.

Smith, an Australian left back who arrived via a trade with the Seattle Sounders in January, played in 16 matches, making 14 starts, last season before suffering a torn ACL in July. Guediri, 25, signed with United from minor league affiliate Loudoun United in July following Smith’s injury and finished with 13 appearances (10 starts). Odoi-Atsem, a 27-year-old right back who often played on the left for United, logged 57 matches after being selected in the first round of the 2017 draft out of the University of Maryland.

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D.C. remains in the market for a starting goalkeeper after it allowed longtime starter Bill Hamid to enter free agency. The club has been eyeing Tyler Miller, a 29-year-old MLS veteran and former U.S. national team prospect who spent the past three seasons with Minnesota United, according to people close to the situation. A deal probably would end talks with David Ochoa, the 21-year-old who is out of contract after joining United in a July trade with Real Salt Lake.

United, which appointed Rooney as coach midway through a 2022 season in which it finished with a league-worst 7-21-6 record, also remains in the market for an attacking midfielder.

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