Donovan Pines considering his future with D.C. United - The Washington Post
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D.C. United in danger of losing Donovan Pines to free agency or Europe

Donovan Pines, a 6-foot-4 center back from the University of Maryland, started 21 matches and scored three times this season. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
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As D.C. United seeks both a general manager and head coach, the MLS organization is also in the process of evaluating the roster and deciding who will return. Defender Donovan Pines, though, has greater control of his future and might leave the club.

With his contract expiring at the end of the year, the 6-foot-4 center back is weighing his options in the league and overseas, according to his agent, Mike Senkowski.

“We are preparing for free agency, as well as engaging with clubs in Europe,” Senkowski told The Washington Post. There is interest in Pines in Belgium and in England’s second division, known as the Championship, Senkowski said.

Because fewer than six months remain on Pines’s contract, Pines has the flexibility to sign a precontract overseas and join a club when European transfer windows open in January. United would not receive a transfer fee.

Pines, 25, can begin accepting free agent offers from other MLS teams Dec. 13.

In a statement, United said, “The club has been in discussions with Donovan about a new contract and would like to keep him in D.C.”

Pines has started 77 league matches over five seasons, including 21 this year. He also equaled his career high in goals with three this season. His base salary was $200,000, which ranked No. 18 among 31 D.C. players, according to MLS Players Association data.

Pines — a center back from the University of Maryland who rose through the D.C. academy and signed a homegrown contract before the 2019 season — is the only United player eligible for MLS free agency. (A player must be at least 24 years old and have five years of league experience.)

Should Pines sign overseas, United would retain his MLS rights because it attempted to re-sign him.

The sides engaged in talks during the summer, but “D.C. is going through a lot of changes at the moment,” Senkowski said. “We had some level of engagement in the summer, but it seems their focus is on the GM/coaching search, which is fair to them.”

United has been without a general manager since last fall, when it parted ways with Lucy Rushton. Dave Kasper, D.C.'s president of soccer operations and sporting director, and Stewart Mairs, the technical director, have overseen the roster this year. Unlike Rushton, who reported to Kasper, the new GM will report to ownership, one person said.

Club officials have spoken to several candidates for the GM job, mostly from MLS but at least one from Europe, two people familiar with the process said. The person filling the position will initiate the search for a coach to replace Wayne Rooney, whose 15-month tenure ended Oct. 7.

United and Rooney agreed to part ways after the club finished with a 10-14-10 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. Rooney is now coaching Birmingham City in the English Championship.

While many United players have guaranteed contracts in 2024, the club faces a Dec. 1 deadline to exercise options on several others, including right back Andy Najar and center back Brendan Hines-Ike.

Pines is the youngest of United’s experienced center backs. This offseason, Hines-Ike will turn 29, Steven Birnbaum 33 and Derrick Williams 31.

United also must decide whether to retain playmaker Gabriel Pirani, whose loan from Brazilian club Santos expires in December. It could purchase his contract — the transfer fee has not been disclosed publicly — or extend the loan. Pirani, 21, started 10 games after joining United in the summer transfer window.