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Christian Gomez heads back to D.C.
February 10th, 2009 7AM
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[MLS] Maybe the United fandom had it exactly right last year when it questioned why the team swept out a solid MLS attacker like Christian Gomez to make room for a pricey DP in Marcelo Gallardo.

About a week after announcing it had terminated Gallardo's contract by mutual agreement, D.C. finalized a deal to bring back Gomez in exchange for midfielder Ivan Guerrero, a Designated Player slot, and United's second-round pick in the 2010 SuperDraft. That slot had been acquired in the Gomez trade last year and been used to upgrade Luciano Emilio's contract.

A year after deeming him expendable, United officials sang his praises. "We're very pleased that Christian is rejoining D.C. United," said United President and CEO Kevin Payne. "He brings unique qualities to our team and he understands the culture of our club. We believe he makes us better able to again compete for the MLS Cup."

In addition to Gomez, the Rapids sent goalkeeper Mike Graczyk, an international player slot and salary-cap space (precise value unknown) to D.C., which Gomez had originally joined midway through the 2004 season and helped win MLS Cup that year. In the next three seasons, he earned MLS Best XI honors each year and the MVP award in 2006.

Yet despite impressive numbers - 11 goals and nine assists (2005), 14 goals and 11 assists (2006), and 10 goals and nine assists (2007) - United preferred to use its DP slot on Gallardo and acquire a second one for Emilio. Gallardo missed half of the 2008 season with injuries and managed only four goals and three assists in 15 games.

Gomez, 34, ended 2008 on the bench, a product of sharply curtailed playing time after Gary Smith replaced Fernando Clavijo as head coach. In 20 games he scored three goals and contributed six assists, and as United's quest to reach the 2008 playoffs lost momentum, rumors began circulating that Gomez's lack of playing time and high salary ($385,000 base in 2008) was prompting Colorado to shop him around.

Since Gomez is not a DP, and Colorado is absorbing part of his salary, the cap hit D.C. takes - at least for this season - could be relatively small. Not known is whether league rules allow a team to use allocation money to buy down the salary charge of a player to which cap relief is also being applied.

In any case, he's a much better value than Gallardo, who counted $415,000 against the cap and earned a base salary of $1.5 million.

"I am extremely happy to return to D.C. United, as is my family - my wife, my kids and my family in the D.C. area," said Gomez, who endeared himself to the D.C. faithful by joining fans in the stands and pounding a drum to watch a game for which he was suspended.

"We are excited. I am coming into the team to contribute and do everything possible as a member of the team to bring the club back to where it belongs - winning championships. I realize how important the fans are to the club and what their expectations are and I hope to make them happy."

Guerrero's MLS career started strongly when he joined the Fire in 2005 but after playing 54 games his first two seasons he played 19 games in 2007, then was claimed by San Jose in the expansion draft. He played 14 games for the Quakes and 13 more for D.C. last season after a midseason trade that sent an undisclosed sum of allocation money to San Jose .

In 101 regular-season games he's scored four goals and registered 20 assists. He turns 32 in November.

"In return, we get some much-needed support and strength in a left-sided player like Ivan Guerrero, whose international and MLS experience is tremendous," said Smith of the Honduran national team member who will join the Rapids after his nation plays Costa Rica in its Hexagonal opener Wednesday.

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