Crystal Palace are kicking off the Premier League season on Friday, but a familiar face won’t be at Selhurst Park as Christian Benteke is heading to D.C. United. The deal went down to the wire but was agreed to before the MLS transfer window slammed shut on Thursday. While Wayne Rooney has forward options in Ola Kamara and Michael Estrada, Kamara’s contract is up at the end of the season and Estrada’s loan also expires after the season. But even if they didn’t, when you can add a player like Benteke into this MLS side, you figure out what needs to be done to make it happen.
This move is part of Rooney’s plan to reinvent D.C. United, a team that currently sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, scoring only 28 goals and allowing 47 so far. This is despite having one of the most exciting attackers in the league in Taxiarchis Fountas who has 11 goals and three assists in only 15 games played. There is a concern that the team is too top-heavy at the moment, but while defenders are needed, Rooney knows from personal experience how two top attackers can improve a team in Major League Soccer.
During Rooney’s time with D.C. United he linked up with Luciano Acosta to form quite a dangerous attack. Between 2018 and 2019, the two combined for 39 goals and 34 assists. While Benteke and Fountas may not be as prolific, in part because the defensive level of the league has improved, they will certainly pack a punch that the team can build around. Benteke hasn’t hit the expectations set after a 19-goal season with Aston Villa in 2013, he has been a productive forward over the years scoring 86 Premier League goals while spending time with Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Crystal Palace.
In recent years Benteke became known for an absolutely horrific scoring drought at one point going 358 days without a Premier League goal between 2018 and 2019. Over the three seasons from 2017-18 through 2019-20 Benteke only scored six total Premier League goals. However he recovered in the 2020-21 season with 10 goals before scoring four last season in only a little over 1100 minutes. At 31 years old, Benteke is at the back end of his career, but the last couple of years suggest he’s still got more than enough in the tank, despite his well documented struggles
With manager Patrick Vieira having Odsonne Edouard and Jean-Philippe Mateta already on the roster at Palace, Benteka was expendable heading into the new season, but he has done the job in a pinch for the Eagles. Now he’s heading to a team that and can hopefully pick up where he left off in MLS.