With the eyes of the world set upon the World Cup in South Africa, D.C. United quietly announced the signing of their third-ever designated player on Monday evening, adding a dose of Balkan-bred creativity to their midfield with the capture of Branko Bošković.
“We’ve been scouting, really, since the first of the year and we identified players in various positions,” said D.C. general manager Dave Kasper in a phone interview on Monday night. “Branko was a player that we watched real closely in the springtime. We were able to watch him live in a match and meet him in person and really liked the complete package.”
The Montenegrin international has impressed in several European leagues over his career, most recently with Rapid Vienna in the Austrian first division. A left-footer who usually roams the flank as captain for his national side, Bošković is expected to feature at attacking midfield, something of a problem spot for United this season.
The Black-and-Red attack has benefited from Chris Pontius’ return from injury in recent weeks, but could undoubtedly use an injection of flair and vision from the likes of Boskovic.
D.C. have traditionally fielded cultured playmakers in the No. 10 role, but head coach Curt Onalfo has struggled to find a permanent solution for the position thus far. Santino Quaranta has looked more comfortable on the flanks or up top, teenage rookie Andy Najar seems to possess the skills but perhaps not the experience, and Clyde Simms and Stephen King are holding players accustomed to sitting deep.
“I think it’s an area that we want to get better at,” acknowledged Kasper. “We don’t want to give up the honesty, but at the same time we do want a player who can dictate the rhythm of a game with his passing.
“Branko is a pretty complete player: he gets up and down [the field] and he’s very honest defensively, but he has great attacking qualities and that’s what intrigued us about him.”
The club’s previous DP signings have been star-crossed — Marcelo Gallardo was a major bust in 2008 and Luciano Emilio’s productivity actually dropped after his salary was increased. But Kasper pointed to Bošković’s active international career and leadership traits and characterized his wages as ranking among the lower echelon of MLS DPs.
“He’s very down to earth,” explained Kasper. “He’s a very serious guy off the field, a family guy. He was very intrigued by MLS, D.C. United and living and working in the States. He’s at a great age, really. He had several options in Europe but decided that D.C. United was the place that he wanted to be, so we’re very happy with that.”
The 29-year-old is presently recovering from a long, draining season of service to club and country, but United expect him to arrive in Washington around July 1 and are hopeful that he can contribute right away when he becomes eligible to play on July 15.
“He’s a fit guy, a very lean and athletic guy, so we don’t feel fitness is going to be a real issue,” said Kasper. “He’ll have hopefully a good two weeks here to get acclimated and get ready to roll.”