Following weeks of speculation, former RCD Espanyol center back Raúl Rodríguez has signed with Houston Dynamo ahead of the 2015 season, per confirmation by Darrell Lovell. The 27-year old Catalonian terminated his contract with the Spanish club yesterday allowing for a free transfer to MLS, as was reported here on Wednesday. Terms of the deal are not likely to be disclosed but the player's arrival on a free transfer allowed for the signing by circumventing a probable DP-level transfer fee.
The defender's contract with Espanyol was set to expire in June 2015 at the conclusion of the La Liga season but after featuring for just 181 minutes this year for the club, Rodríguez sought an opportunity in the winter transfer window. "One may not imagine leaving a club like this," the player told RCD Espanyol, "but the possibility arose... and we all felt good because it is good for everyone." Rodríguez will give a farewell press conference next week in Spain and could be with the team for the start of training camp on January 23rd.
Rodríguez spent more than four seasons with Espanyol, featuring in 81 La Liga matches and 12 Copa Del Ray fixtures. The arrival of head coach Sergio González in 2014 saw a dramatic reduction in minutes for Rodríguez and his recent exclusion from Espanyol's Copa Del Ray match this week seemed to indicate an imminent transfer. In December, Rodríguez was linked with Houston, Real Zaragoza, and Rayo Vallecano but the financial difficulties of Spanish clubs within the context of a tumultuous economy made Houston a safe, competitive choice.
The defender has featured mostly in the center of defense but has some experience playing right back, solidifying him as a versatile piece of the Dynamo defense. Amongst fans, Rodríguez attracted a following for his speaking skills in the media, even drawing praise for his political outspokenness this past summer on the subject of Catalan independence from Spain.
This marks the second signing of note from General Manager Matt Jordan's scouting trip in November and follows yesterday's signing of Argentinian midfielder Leonel Miranda.
UPDATE (2:24PM): Dynamo have officially confirmed the signing. Here's a Raúl quote from announcement below:
"I'm very excited to join the Houston Dynamo. This move represents a great challenge for me in my career with the growth of MLS. The Dynamo are an ambitious club with a clear vision and I'm excited to be a part of this project. Houston is a great city with a lot of possibilities for me and my family. I can't wait to join my teammates and coaches and get to work."