D.C. United close to hiring Hernán Losada as head coach
United officials, however, said they had no comment. But three people said the sides were working out the last details before announcing what is likely to be a three-year pact.
Losada acknowledged his imminent move, telling reporters in Antwerp, “If I had been able to choose, I would, of course, rather have said goodbye after the season. I don’t like to get out of something in the middle, but there was no other way now. It’s a new challenge.
“What made me choose? First and foremost, I think it is a dream for many coaches to work in MLS. I also have to realize that such an opportunity does not come every day.”
Losada also would become United’s first coach hired from overseas and the first without any U.S. soccer ties — a risky proposition in a league in which most foreign coaches have struggled.
He is also the first with Latin American roots, and he speaks several languages, including English.
The Buenos Aires native is not well-known outside Belgium and has fewer than 16 months of head coaching experience.
One person in United’s circles said Losada “ticks all the boxes. Bright tactically, modern coach” who is known for an attack-minded playing style. He models his tactics after those used by Marcelo Bielsa, a storied Argentine coach now with Leeds United in the Premier League.
United interviewed more than 25 candidates, some casually and some seriously, and seemed inclined to hire someone with MLS or U.S. experience. The only coach to win the MLS Cup after stepping into a head coaching job from abroad was Atlanta’s Gerardo Martino (Argentina) in 2018.
Negotiations with former New York Red Bulls coach Chris Armas and Seattle Sounders assistant Gonzalo Pineda failed to yield an agreement.
Others to speak with United included former U.S. women’s national team coach Jill Ellis, Philadelphia Union assistant Pat Noonan, Columbus Crew assistant Ezra Hendrickson and Manchester City assistant Rodolfo Borrell.
Chad Ashton, D.C.’s longtime assistant who served as interim coach the last month of the season, also was in the mix.
After the Pineda talks ended, United fully turned its attention to European-based candidates, including former Birmingham City Coach Pep Clotet.
Losada enjoyed a 15-year playing career, starting with Independiente in Argentina. Most of it, though, was spent in Belgium and much of it with Beerschot, where he is considered an icon.
He became an assistant coach for the club in 2018 and, 10 games into the 2019-20 season, was named head coach.
He guided the small club to promotion to the first division from the second tier. This season, Beerschot is 10th in the 18-team league with 30 points from 21 matches after a 3-0 home defeat by first-place Club Brugge on Sunday. It is only four points out of third place.
“If you have to say goodbye, it always hurts, especially when it comes to Beerschot,” he told reporters in Antwerp. “But for me the circle is complete. I gave everything. It took blood, sweat and tears to bring this team back” to the first division.
United defender Frédéric Brillant was Losada’s teammate at Beerschot in 2012-13.
MLS veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan, now with the Los Angeles Galaxy, was Losada’s roommate when Kljestan signed with Belgium club Anderlecht in 2010.
“I’m excited to see him in MLS,” Kljestan said. “He’s a smart guy.”
Even if the Losada deal is finalized in the coming days, he is not expected to take a role in the MLS draft Thursday. United holds the fourth overall pick.
Ashton and General Manager Dave Kasper are expected to oversee a draft that is used primarily to add depth and supply MLS’s developmental squads in the second and third divisions.
Most of United’s roster is in place, but Losada would seemingly have a say in acquiring additional players before training camp. The club is in need of another striker, a starting right back and defensive depth.