D.C. United signs midfielder Mateusz Klich


D.C. United on Thursday filled its third and final designated player slot by announcing the acquisition of Polish midfielder Mateusz Klich from Premier League club Leeds.

Klich, 32, arrived in Washington last weekend after an emotional farewell at Leeds, where he played a key role for four years before accepting secondary duties this season. He passed a physical Tuesday before finalizing a two-year contract that also includes a club-held option in 2025. Terms were not disclosed, but Klich earned an estimated $1.5 million with Leeds.

He is awaiting a work visa, a process that typically takes a few weeks. United opened training camp in Leesburg on Monday and will fly to Southern California on Jan. 20 for three weeks of workouts and four friendlies. The season opener is Feb. 25 against Toronto FC at Audi Field.

“Mateusz is a first-rate midfielder who will add top-level experience to our roster,” United Coach Wayne Rooney said in a statement. “I’ve been watching him since he helped lead Leeds to promotion to the Premier League [in 2020], and his vision, range of passing and scoring ability will be a huge asset for us this season.”

No longer a regular with the West Yorkshire club, Klich was let out of his contract and free to seek a new home. United had targeted him for some time and was engaged in contract negotiations for several weeks.

Klich appeared in 14 of 17 Premier League matches this season, all as a substitute, and did not contribute any goals or assists. He did feature regularly the previous four seasons, making 161 league appearances with 147 starts, 21 goals and 20 assists.

Three years ago, Klich was instrumental in Leeds returning to the Premier League after 16 years in the second and third flights. Last season he appeared in 33 league matches (26 starts). This season, though, he lost playing time to Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson, both members of the U.S. men’s national team, among others.

Leeds Coach Jesse Marsch, a Wisconsin native and former D.C. midfielder, said last week that his club will miss Klich’s presence.

“His personality, his courage, his bravado, that part will be tough to replace,” Marsch said while wearing a T-shirt honoring Klich after the Jan. 4 home match against West Ham.

Klich has earned 41 caps for the Polish national team but wasn’t selected for its 2022 World Cup roster because of limited playing time with Leeds.

In Washington, Klich will join Belgian striker Christian Benteke and Greek attacker Taxi Fountas as designated players, a classification for high-end players whose salaries exceed MLS’s standard guidelines. Icelandic midfielder Victor Palsson was a designated player upon arrival last summer but was reclassified this season, clearing space for Klich.

United sees Klich as a facilitator for Fountas and Benteke, both of whom arrived after last season started. Fountas, 27, recorded 12 goals and three assists in 21 appearances (17 starts) and Benteke, 32, had one goal in seven matches (six starts).

Throughout an MLS-worst 7-21-6 campaign, United labored to launch or sustain attacks and finished with a league-low 36 goals. Before signing Klich, United had spent the offseason focused on improving its defense, which conceded an MLS-worst 71 goals.

It signed three free agents — goalkeepers Tyler Miller (Minnesota) and Alex Bono (Toronto) and midfielder-defender Pedro Santos (Columbus) — and upgraded keeper Luis Zamudio from second-division Loudoun United. It traded for center back Derrick Williams (Los Angeles Galaxy) and Brazilian right back Ruan (Orlando), and signed left back Mohanad Jeahze from Hammarby in Sweden.

“This offseason was important for us to analyze our roster and see where we can make improvements after a disappointing 2022 season,” Dave Kasper, United’s president of soccer operations, said in a statement. “Bringing in a top-class designated player was atop our priority list, and Mateusz has played at the highest levels for both club and country. He will add a ton of experience in the midfield and will be an impact player for us this season and beyond.”

Club officials said no other moves are imminent, though they are taking a hard look at trialist Danny Trejo, a 24-year-old attacker who starred for second-division Las Vegas before joining MLS Cup champion Los Angeles FC last August. He made three appearances before being released in the offseason.

Also seeking contracts are the club’s two picks in this winter’s draft, Penn midfielder Ben Stitz and Georgetown midfielder Aidan Rocha, and a selection from last year, Vermont midfielder Alex Nagy.

Notes: Rooney added another former Derby County colleague to his staff, hiring Luke Jenkinson as director of performance. Upon his appointment last summer, Rooney brought along assistant Pete Shuttleworth.

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