How long have you had an eye out on Rafael?
Dave Kasper We’ve been tracking Rafael for the past six months.
Can you explain Rafael’s contract?
DK Rafael will be a young Designated Player, which means there’s a salary-cap benefit to us – a reduced salary-cap charge. There’s also, in this deal, funds available from MLS to make this happen.
And what were some standout qualities that you saw in his play?
DK For his age, he’s a player with quite a bit of first-team experience, a player who has scored a number of goals for the first team and a player who is very mature for his age. We think it’s a great fit and a great opportunity, especially taking a player on loan for a year to really evaluate if there’s a transfer at the end of it.
D.C. United finished 2012 as the fourth-best team in goals production. How do you think Rafael will be able to help this already-strong attack force?
DK You know, we don’t want to put a lot of pressure on him early on. We want him to be able to take his time to adapt to a different culture, a different style of soccer, but we feel he’ll see the field early on and we’re hoping he really makes his mark come summer time.
Some foreign players have experienced difficulty adjusting to the style of play of MLS – do you think having four other South American players on the team will help ease Rafael’s transition?
DK It will definitely help, starting with Marcelo Saragosa, who is a real leader, a guy that has embraced D.C. United and has embraced Major League Soccer. He will help a player like Rafael big time. Our team physical therapist, who is with the team everyday, is Brazilian, so that really helps to have someone on-staff that can help translate, who can help make the transition easy and smooth for Rafael.
Rafael is also one of the youngest guys on a squad filled with young talent. How important was it to the makeup of the team to bring in another player on the rise?
DK That part is very exciting. We have a young coaching staff who believes in giving opportunities to young players. Ben [Olsen] is not afraid to put a young player on the field, and that’s really important in our overall philosophy in moving into a situation where we’re signing a young DP like Rafael. We know that the staff has had results helping young players grow and get better at the game, and we think it’s a perfect fit.