D.C. United sign young Brazilian striker Rafael as DP


D.C. United has added to their young attacking core, announcing the signing of Brazilian forward Rafael Wednesday morning. The 20-year-old striker will join the club on a one-year loan from Brazilian top flight side Bahia as a designated player, the youngest DP currently on the books in MLS.

“We are very excited to have reached a deal to bring Rafael to D.C. United on a one-year loan with a view to a permanent transfer,” said D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper in a club release. “He is a young, talented player with solid experience with the Brazilian Serie A club Bahia. We believe Rafael has all the qualities to be a successful striker in Major League Soccer, and we look forward to having him join us in pre-season 2013.”

Rafael comes with some impressive youth credentials, having represented the Brazilian U-20 team, as recently as Pan-American Games, and has shown a knack for scoring goals at that level. He joins an already potent D.C. attack that is looking to take the next step after making a run to the Eastern Conference Championship series where they were bounced by eventual MLS runners-up Houston Dynamo.

With the likes of Chris Pontius, the returning Dwayne De Rosario and sophomore-to-be Nick DeLeon already in the squad, the 6-foot striker will not be asked to carry the load, but will have the chance to show he can be a consistent goal scorer to supplement their attack.

The best news of the deal could be the use of the young DP rules put into place by MLS that minimize the cap hit for players under 23 years of age. According to MLS guidelines, the cap hit for players age 21 is $200,000, which will be the case since the player’s birthday is in July.

Will Rafael be able to bring more youthful attacking prowess to a team already with star young attackers Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon? Can a 20-year-old catch on quick enough to make a difference in a year? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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71 Responses to D.C. United sign young Brazilian striker Rafael as DP

  1. ed - houston says:

    i like this signing for DC/mls.

    • Josh D says:

      Call me jaded. After being linked with the kind of strikers we were rumored to and with the amount of money our three owners have, this is a letdown.

      Our track record with DPs is already the worse in the league even though we probably rank top 3 in bringing in the most in MLS history.

      Now we bring a $200,000 a year, 20 year old striker? He has played three games as a u20 striker – hardly top notch and worth spinning as him being a youth team player. His goal scoring is alright, 10 in almost 40, but it’s hard to tell how many starts he’s had v off the bench.

      And a one year loan and we’re already paying that much? It’ll take him a year just to get used to the league! We need a striker who’s going to come in and score 10+ goals a season. If he can’t offer that then this is another failed move by the front office. Pajoy and Tan are not the options to lead us. We’ll end up with one more striker who’s a cheap journeyman unable to hit a barn door from ten inches away.

      We have so many potential fans here; it’s a pity we can’t dole out the cash to bring in a marquee signing. I was hoping the team would be rewarded for a great season with quality backup/starters. Lost opportunity.

      • elgringorico says:

        Dude, you need to face the music. What did you expect? Who did you realistically want? We don’t have the money for Drogba or Lampard or anyone like that. Why not start young? There is NO way this guy is worse than Pajoy or Tan

        • Josh D says:

          For a loaned DP, making probably more than $200,000 a year, I expected more. I also expected more because with the combined wealth of our three owners, we are one of the more wealthier teams now. Finally, I expected more because Olsen and company have talked up a big-time striker.

          We aren’t LA or NY big gamers, but there are good players who will impact us immediately, not asking for absurd amounts of money.

          When we never play our other DP striker (who is said to be leaving), when we’ve dropped our top scorer in the center forward position from last season (Santos), and when we’re left with only Pajoy and Tan to play as a central striker, I expected more.

        • Cory says:

          Actually, we do have the money for those types of players now. But it is Ben Olsen’s team, and he wants young, hard-working players.

      • JimB says:

        Well, I’ve never seen him play, but color me excited that an MLS team was willing and able to bring in a 20 year old Brazilian striker with a decent goal scoring record in the Brazilian Serie A, which I think most would agree is a fairly decent step up in quality versus MLS. If he was able to score 10 goals in 36 games (roughly a season’s worth of appearances for a first teamer), then I think its reasonable to assume that he can do at least that in MLS. Not to mention that he is only 20 years old, so presumably there is significant room for improvement.

        As for the monetary outlines of the deal, I think its safe to assume that acquisition costs plus his salary are significantly more than $200,000.00, so you have to like that DC were able to utilize the new young DPs rules to reduce the cap hit and that ownership was willing to shell out the funds necessary to get it done. The true measure of the deal will be his play on the field this year as well as whether or not the club negotiated a reasonable purchase option. Dave Kasper is quoted as saying that this is a loan with an eye toward a permanent move, so I think its reasonable to say that a purchase option was included in the loan agreement. Ultimately what you hope is that this kid comes in, lights up the league and helps DC United, DC is able to purchase him at the end of the year at a reasonable cost and then they have a highly valuable and marketable asset on their balance sheet moving forward.

        To me, that’s how you hope MLS begins to operate, versus signing 30 plus year old DPs on the wrong side of their performance curve/value curve.

        • Gary Page says:

          JimB–Perfectly said, agree 100%. This is the kind of move that MLS should be making more often, even if there is some risk. It is the best way to elevate the league.

        • ThaDeuce says:


        • Philbin says:

          JimB – Do your research. He made 15 appearances in the Brazilian Serie A in 2012, starting only 1 match, and scoring only 1 goal in the last game of the season, about a month ago.

          That’s a sizable salary for an unproven player. Huge risk.

          • Jim B says:

            Mea Culpa….. I thought all of the stats presented at mlssoccer represented Serie A games. That said, I still like the signing. Higher risk can equal higher reward.

        • Josh says:

          It is about the right fit on the right team, not the league

      • Nytshade says:

        The $200,000 is only the impact to the overall salary cap. He is likely being paid considerably more. That’s the beauty of this salary cap rule. Not to mention, with Kevin Payne out of the picture, maybe a dawn has risen on the selection process for DP’s to the Black and Red.

        (Insert optimistic smile of hope and reluctant scorn here.)

      • RK says:

        “Our track record with DPs is already the worse in the league even though we probably rank top 3 in bringing in the most in MLS history.”

        There’s no way that’s true. DC was one of the last to do it.

      • Hincha Tim says:

        I think its a great signing. I wish that RSL had picked him up instead of Robbie Findley

  2. Old School says:

    “The best news of the deal could be the use of the young DP rules put into place by MLS that minimize the cap hit for players under 23 years of age.”

    Regarding all of our wonky and convoluted rules, I really do like that rule encouraging more youth. However, not sure what to think of a one year loan deal for a DP.

    Time will tell if this kid is worth it but I like the idea of more young prospects signing with MLS, just wish it was for a little longer than a single year.

    • Kosh says:

      There is an option to buy at the end of the deal, Old School, which kind’a makes sense seeing as how we’ve gotten stuck with our current/recent set of “DPs” that didn’t do the DP business for us.

      The move is encouraging, fresh and gutsy and if it works out – great. If not – well, then you don’t have to buy. I like it and wish the kid well.

      Welcome Raphael to the Black and Red.

      • Old School says:

        I saw “with a view to a permanent transfer” statement but I didn’t take that as anything in writing but rather intention.

        There IS a distinction between the two.

        • Kosh says:

          Fair enough. Even though there IS another way to take the statement but I’m not in the mood to spit hairs. Just happy about the signing, which I would presume you are too but I’m not sure how you’d take that. 😉

        • Northzax says:

          The team has reported, per Goff, that there is a negotiated price for the buyout already, just a matter of dcu pulling the trigger at eos.

  3. Dos says:

    Pretty big vote of confidence for Olsen as well here, this move doesn’t make sense unless you have the confidence that you have a staff who can continue the development at a crucial age.

    DC looks very exciting up top next year, when healthy, hopefully this adds to it.

    • Paul Miller says:

      That’s an excellent point. The Brazilian club has to assume at the end of the loan they are getting this kid back, at least until DCU or someone shows transfer interest. So a loan is a loan until its something more, and you don’t send promising 20-year-olds to play for just anyone.

      I’ve thought for a while we Americans need to get over this inferiority complex, or at least channel it toward its proper source. We know as much as everyone else about the game. We just don’t have a pool of players that grew up playing pick-up games everyday. Between Olsen and his assistants, as well as veterans like De Ro, there will be people around who can ensure his development stays on track.

  4. Eugene says:

    Right, so this guy gets signed as a young-DP because he’s had some experience with the Brazil U-20s and gets paid north of $200k per season (probably well north), and is not asked to carry the load on attack, while Chris Pontius carries the load on the attack, scores double-digit goals, and does not get paid as a young DP? Rafael will get paid more money and will be expected to do less than Pontius? How is that remotely fair for Pontius? Shouldn’t Pontius get paid more?

    • elgringorico says:

      Pontius is just about at that amount, and has expressed in interviews how content he is living comfortably in DC. He also got a 5 year deal, whereas this kid’s one year loan will not be extended if he doesn’t work out this season.

      • Paul Miller says:

        Pontius’ big paychecks are coming, if he continues to impress like last year. Might be a few years down the road, but they’re coming.

        The thing is Pontius might be a better player now, and might stay a better player down the road, but a Brazilian youth international still carries that national mystique. Brazil is royalty in this game, and the kid may be playing for the senior team one of these days.

        Pontius is very promising and had a great year. He hasn’t broken into the USMNT yet, and hasn’t proven his worth overseas. He’ll probably do both, eventually, but hasn’t yet. For an American, unfair as it may be, that just makes him just another relatively good player at MLS levels.

    • Nate Dollars says:

      yeah! also, i work way harder than this guy down the hall, but get paid way less, due to employment agreements that we both signed, of our own free will! WTF, Obama?!?

    • fischy says:

      I’m sure he’s being paid more than Pontius, but Chris has never played for Brazil or in the Brazilian 1st Division. Americans get paid less because they’re held in less esteem and because there is less demand for their services internationally. The market decides. Fair? Who said it’s supposed to be fair? However if you’re looking at just the $200k, I’m sure Chris’ new deal pays him more than that. So, his cap hit is higher, which in some way means the team values him more, right now.

  5. elgringorico says:

    It’s a good signing. Some DC fans will be upset that the club didn’t secure some big international name, but let’s face it, few teams can afford the likes of Drogba or Lampard, and this young guy shows loads more potential and immediate improvement upon Lionard Pajoy! Benny must have been impressed with his workrate to sign him, so he’ll play well with other young speedy United players.

    • Kevin says:

      I’m not the least bit upset that we’re not going after big names. In general they are a waste of money in MLS. There are only a few in the world who can realistically be brought here who will also move the needle, attendance-wise.

      I like this move very much, even with the inherent risk.

  6. Eugene says:

    Pontius got paid $166k last season. This kind of move smacks of paying a young foreigner the big bucks just because he’s young and foreign. Either Rafael should be expected to contribute more than Pontius, or he should be paid less (or Pontius more). I don’t much like the idea of young Americans not getting paid but doing the work while young foreigners get PAID.

    • MJC-DC says:

      Meh. Pontius will get payed, either when signs a new deal or moves to Europe on free transfer. I can hardly imagine him as the type of player that will take this personally.

    • A says:

      This kid STARTED for Brazil’s U-20 team.

      No offense, but he could already be better than Pontius will ever be.

    • 20 says:

      Pontius just signed a new 5 year deal in October, terms were not disclosed so we won’t know how much he’s making until the salaries are released. I’m guessing it’s more than $250,000/year.

    • Eric Reeder says:

      It’s no different from when MLS offers young American stars Generation Adidas deals. They may not immediately be earning their pay compared to the veterans on the team but these deals are made with long term interests in mind.

    • Jake says:

      Should we renegotiate everyone’s contract because of how much Salihi was making and how little he did? Its just a silly argument. I’m excited to see a guy who started on Brazil’s U-20 team. That definitely raises my expectations a bit. Its a gamble to bring in a young DP, but this is sure better than Salihi was for us this year. We also have an out clause at the end of the year if he doesn’t work out. Also, the cap hit is a good deal less for DC. A risk, but not a bad one IF the guy is any good and able to adjust to MLS. The nice thing is, there’s another couple Brazilians on the team, Saragosa and the other Rafael if he stays also on loan.

  7. MiamiAl says:

    20 year old D.P.- INTERESTING!!!!

  8. elgringorico says:

    I think this is actually a good indicator of the MLS’ development on a global scale. I think a reasonably achievable goal would to be equal to the Brazilian league within 5-10 years, so it’s a good sign that their young talent are showing interest in playing here.

  9. jon says:

    anyone know his stats for Bahia/the u20’s?

  10. danny says:

    Dude just walked out of some tallgrass shruberry shit in some pawn shop Brazilian kit and gets paid $200k USD wtf I’d do it too. Nice photo.

  11. Doherty says:

    This kid has only played 417 minutes professionally for Bahia in the league over 13 matches, an average just over a half hour per appearance. In total the kid’s only played four and a half matches worth of minutes as a professional for his club in the first division.

    A majority of the games and all but one of the goals cited in the MLSsoccer.com article were in the state league, which in Bahia is terrible.

    I’m not saying the kid doesn’t have skill or potential, but he hasn’t really shown it to the rest of the world yet. Maybe Ben Olsen is just really good at his job.

  12. Joemybro says:

    Anyone else willing to bet this means we’ve seen the last of Salihi?

  13. Aguinaga says:

    This is a brilliant move by DC, much as it pains me to say it. I always wondered why MLS teams didn’t more often DP young talent from the traditional feeder centers to the Euro leagues (South America, Asia, and Africa), this is how we finally make inroads into competing for talent on a global stage. Not looking forward to seeing my old creaky Metros trying to keep up with the young, tireless, and fearless teams of the league….

    • fischy says:

      “Brilliant move?” I’m a big DCU fan, but it would be hard to call something a brilliant move when they’re bringing in a kid who was totally unknown here a week ago. It might turn out to be a brilliant move, but none of us knows enough to have a worthwhile opinion.

      • Paul Miller says:

        I agree. It’s an intriguing move, and a promising one from the perspective of using the DP thing to bring in some youth rather than another foreign veteran looking for a twilight tour. But we should see him play before we call it brilliant.

  14. MA1 Rodriguez says:

    I don’t mind seeing young DP signings, but this guy has donet nothing in Brazil to deserve a DP signing. Some these DP signings sound more mediocre because the transfer fee or loan fee, waive low transfer from DP list!

  15. Jr says:

    Good luck DC and Rafael!

  16. The Imperative Voice says:

    I think this is more the reality of the Young DP rules, it’s going to be people of this level or Montero’s, people with aspirations and a decent CV but not so obviously amazing Europe is knocking. Similar loan to Montero too.

    Not sure as the price climbs that a loan is ideal. Once you’re talking DP money, should I really have tire-kick terms and the potential loss of the player after a season? Put differently, don’t DP money and loan terms send competing signals about the quality of the acquisition? I always had this response to Houston signing LA Landin on a lengthy loan. They should have a pretty good idea by end of preseason what they got and whether he’s worth signing.

    Last thought, don’t know if I buy that he’s here to understudy the people named. DeRo has to crest the hill sometime at his age. Pontius has been hurt off and on. DeLeon is good but the attack is someplace you need depth you will actually use. At his price, I’m sure he will be pressed into action sooner rather than later, if but to evaluate conversion of loan to purchase.

  17. Vic says:

    Top young Brazilians cost a fortune and teams from everywhere want them. Regards to Chris Pontius. There hasn’t been any Americans on Madrid or Barcelona. There’s been hundreds from youth Brazilian national teams that have made it. Brasilians have a great upside. I like this move.

  18. Heft says:

    Brazilian…You’re paying a bit extra for the nationality as well.

  19. Strider257 says:

    Let’s be realistic, some of you seem to think DC could get Neymar for this money (after all he’s a Brazilian that has “done” something). Well, this is really the best MLS can do; obtain kids that show the likelihood to progress into a real player. If you wait one more year and they do develop, the cost will go through the roof and they’ll be in Europe the next year. Let’s accept that we will only get any gems if we speculate.
    This seems like a really good deal for DC if the kid does develop and they already have a purchase price agreed.

    • Heft says:

      I think that it’s the best plan for our league at this stage. We can find and develop talent here and be a feeder league to the EPL, La Liga, and Bundesliga. That hopefully will help bring in more talent and more cash. I think it’s a better plan then being the retirement league.

    • elgringorico says:


  20. Beto says:

    Interesting move; looking forward to seeing how it pans out. No question that its odd how few brazillian footballs have taken to MLS and it would be great if more did but its hard to say who is and who isnt worth investing in. LA found a great player in Juninho, but besides him the other brazillian players here have been average at best. Now that DC has two u20 brazillians named Rafael in the squad i hope to see their investments pay off

    • MiamiAl says:

      Luciano Emilio was MVP wasn’t he?

      • Mark says:

        As was Christian Gomez. Jaime Moreno should have been. Marco Etcheverry was a league MVP also. DC United are like a home run hitter: They hit it out of the park quite a bit, but they also get a lot of strike outs while they swing for the fences. That is why they have collected more trophies than any MLS team, yet did not even made the playoffs half of their seasons in MLS. It is too early to evaluate this latest “Swing for the Fences”. Business as usual for DC. I think they are in decent shape with Ben Olsen doing the swinging but time will tell.

      • beto says:

        good call on Emilio. Gomez is an Argie and Marco Etcheverry is from Bolivia. still compared to every other league large or small; MLS seems to have a surprisingly small amount of Brazilians, and not many that have dominated the league.

  21. JoeW says:

    1. I like this deal. No, I don’t know the player. No, I don’t know if he’ll work out. But I’d rather that MLS invest in players like Raphael and Montero. Most foreign acquisitions (even DP’s) don’t work out. But I’d rather MLS spend money on young players with an upside than aging players with names. This is a guy who has some games with the Brasilian U20 side–how many young players has MLS signed who have some time (even if only on the bench) with the U20 sides of Argentina, Brasil, England, Italy, Germany, Holland? You can count the number on one hand and not need to use all of your fingers. Plus he seems to fit what Olsen was looking forward: skilled, decent finisher, good target man, runs hard and will provide high pressure.

    2. He’s not being paid $200k, that’s just the cap hit. He’s being paid much more.

    3. Coming on loan is wise. Christian Gomez came to DCU from Argentina on loan. DCU wanted to see if he was a fit. He wanted to test MLS but not commit completely until he was sure it was a fit. When it was, a purchase price was agreed on.

    4. DCU is saying that a purchase fee was agreed upon as a condition of the loan. So he comes, plays and DCU can decide if they acquire him at the end of the season or not.

  22. Scott A says:


  23. Strider257 says:

    There is a balance here between aging names and young potential. Personally, I would rather see 10 young kids with potential than one Beckham. However, there is value in aging names if they will fill seats and increase the visibility of soccer in the U.S. and Canada. This is a tricky balance to obtain and Beckham and Henry may be the only two I can think of that have been reasonably successful along these lines. The other advantage is that they can have an influence on young players for the team they are on, IF they have the right attitude and don’t see this as a “paid retirement.”