By Kevin Kinkead
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For the Philadelphia Union, the second time was the charm.
Sources tell CBS Philly that the club will bolster its strike force with the loan signing of 22-year-old FC Nantes forward Fernando Aristeguieta, thus wrapping up a search that spanned many months and multiple countries.
Aristeguieta is expected to arrive in Philadelphia this week, where he will take a medical before joining the Union for preseason training in Florida. Sources further confirmed that he will count as a “young designated player”, which gives the Union flexibility against the salary cap.
Details on loan length are unclear, though the Union will have an option to purchase the player when the deal expires.
The Venezuela international scored nine goals in more than forty appearances for “Les Canaris”, where he shared the field with American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. He was key in helping Nantes win promotion to Ligue 1 during the 2012-2013 season, appearing 17 times with 11 starts after joining midway through the season.
His production dropped off when the club joined the French top flight one year later. Aristeguieta was relegated to a bench role behind first-choice strikers Serge Gakpe and Filip Djordjevic. He made a number of substitute appearances and briefly crossed paths with Union midfielder Vincent Nogueira in a September home game against Sochaux.
Prior to the European move, he scored 31 goals in 71 appearances for Caracas FC in his home country. He has 12 caps for the Venezuela national team and scored once in a friendly versus El Salvador at RFK Stadium in Washington.
Aristeguieta is seen as a natural center forward with plenty of upside. At six-foot-two, 180 pounds, he fits the mold of the physical, yet mobile striker needed for Jim Curtin’s presumed 4-2-3-1 shape. His skill-set looks to be a combination of target man and poacher qualities, not dissimilar from that of a young Conor Casey or Brian Ching. He’s not the fastest player on the field, but he seems to position himself well and has the height to connect with crosses into the box.
But it’s the story of how he got here that might be most interesting.
Philadelphia was in talks with Aristeguieta in December, and the player showed interest in moving to MLS, according to those with knowledge of the situation. But negotiations took a sharp left turn when Spanish side Getafe entered the picture, offering the striker a chance to play in La Liga.
Aristeguieta agreed to to a six-month loan deal and stayed in Europe.
Two months passed, and Philadelphia moved on to other targets, nearly securing a deal for Wigan’s Andy Delort at the end of January. Meantime, there were issues at Getafe, and the club could not fulfill financial obligations regarding the player. The loan deal, which had already been completed, ultimately fell apart, even after the player had passed a medical and arrived in Spain. Aristeguieta then returned to France and the Union was able to restart talks with Nantes.