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Negotiations ongoing for D.C. United with Rapid's Salihi

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Sports,MLS,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer
United is trying to get star Albanian forward

After what so far has been a quiet offseason, D.C. United seems poised to swipe Rapid Vienna forward Hamdi Salihi away from other suitors, including Scotland's two biggest clubs. Negotiations are under way with the Albanian forward, according to a source with knowledge of the transaction.

Salihi, who turned 28 last month, has spent the last two and a half seasons with Rapid, which also was D.C. United midfielder Branko Boskovic's former club. According to Rapid Vienna's website, Salihi scored 45 goals during his tenure, including 25 last season in all competitions. Only three have come during the current season, with eight of his 11 league appearances coming off the bench in the fall.

The 6-foot-1 Salihi also has scored nine goals in 37 appearances for the Albanian national team, which did not qualify for the 2012 European championships.

With his current contract expiring this summer, Salihi was a candidate this winter to leave Rapid, which would benefit by receiving a transfer fee instead of allowing him to leave for free in six months. Both Rangers and Celtic were linked to Salihi in the last month.

The details of a potential deal with D.C. United are not yet known, but Salihi would be a candidate to become a designated player and receive a salary outside of the maximum $335,000 charge to the team's salary cap. He would be United's third designated player after Boskovic and Dwayne De Rosario, assuming De Rosario's contract extension talks are completed.

By making a splash on a player of Salihi's caliber, D.C. United is making it clear it wants to end a streak of four straight seasons in which it failed to reach the MLS playoffs and to demonstrate that its resources have not been hampered by its current stadium situation.

Salihi would be United's sixth acquisition of the offseason following the additions of defender Robbie Russell from Real Salt Lake, midfielder Danny Cruz from Houston, forward Maicon Santos and defender Emiliano Dudar as free agents and midfielder Nick DeLeon via the MLS draft.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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