Losada signed a three-year contract that includes a club-held option year. Terms were not disclosed.
The Buenos Aires native arrives from Beerschot, a small, overachieving club in Antwerp that last year gained promotion to the first division in his first season in charge.
“I believe in playing every match to win and, in my opinion, the best way to do this is to create as many scoring chances as possible every time we step onto the field, through high-energy, vertical attacking soccer,” he said in a statement issued by United. “I am looking forward to entertaining our fans and competing.”
Because Losada was under contract with the Belgian club until June 2023, United was expected to pay a fee to Beerschot. United officials declined to comment on the terms.
The hiring ended a search that lasted more than two months and included failed negotiations with former New York Red Bulls coach Chris Armas and Seattle Sounders assistant Gonzalo Pineda.
United spoke to more than 25 candidates and figured to hire someone with MLS or U.S. soccer experience. Late in the process, however, the club took a harder look at European-based coaches.
“His name surfaced as a rising young coach in Belgium who everyone was talking about,” United General Manager Dave Kasper said. “Once we did the first interview, it was clear that Hernán’s game philosophy aligned with ours. His ideas are very modern, and he expressed his attacking and defending principles and game model in a very clear way.”
Losada and the club are in the process of assembling his staff. It’s unclear whether longtime assistant Chad Ashton, who served as interim head coach after Olsen’s dismissal, and goalkeepers coach Zach Thornton will return. Both are under contract for 2021.
Losada is the first United coach who speaks Spanish as his first language. At least five returning players are from Latin American countries. He speaks several languages, including English.
“As part of the final interview process, he evaluated our team and what is needed to play the way he wants,” Kasper said. “Obviously, like any coach coming from abroad, there will be a learning curve at first.”
Historically, foreign coaches have not fared well in MLS. The only import across 25 seasons to win the MLS Cup without any prior experience in the league or country was Atlanta’s Gerardo Martino (Argentina) in 2018.
At the very least, Losada will implement a playing style that delights the audience. Despite being 10th in the 18-team standings, Beerschot is third in scoring with 41 goals in 21 matches. Only league front-runners Club Brugge and Genk (43 apiece) have scored more.
However, Beerschot has also conceded the second-most goals (45). Results this season have included 6-3 and 5-2 victories and a 5-5 draw. Early in the year, it defeated Club Brugge and Genk, as well as traditional power Anderlecht.
Losada enjoyed a 15-year playing career as an attacking midfielder, much of it with Beerschot, where he is a popular figure.
Losada’s coaching portfolio is thin, however: He was a Beerschot assistant for a little more than a year before being promoted to head coach in the fall of 2019.
United is coming off a 5-12-6 season in which it scored 25 goals, was shut out seven times and scored more than two goals once. The club has not won a playoff game since 2015 and hasn’t advanced to the MLS Cup since 2004, when it won its fourth title.
With most players on guaranteed contracts, United’s roster is largely in place. However, Losada will take a prominent role in filling the voids. The club is in the market for a striker to compete with Ola Kamara for playing time and for multiple defenders.
United owns the No. 4 pick in Thursday’s MLS draft. In consultation with the new coach, Kasper, Ashton and technical director Stewart Mairs will oversee the three-round selections.
“Hernán is a strong leader and strategist and an attack-minded coach,” United chief executive Jason Levien said in a statement. “We are confident our players and community will take quickly to him and will thoroughly enjoy his high-energy, forward-thinking soccer.”
Notes: Goalkeeper Bill Hamid had hernia surgery Monday and will need six to eight weeks of recovery, the team said. Defender Steven Birnbaum recently had ankle surgery, sidelining D.C.’s captain for at least two months.