D.C. United's Luis Silva (black jersey) has scored five goals in 14 MLS matches this season. (Photo: Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When D.C. United leading scorer Fabian Espindola went down with a knee injury, conventional wisdom suggested the Black and Red would need to grind out a couple 1-nils to keep their momentum going.
The 2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) qualifier has instead scored seven goals in its last three matches--all wins--and amassed nine points in its first four games without the Argentine, whose return from a right MCL sprain is in sight.
“Losing Fabi is obviously an important piece to this team,” striking partner Eddie Johnson said of the seven-goal Espindola. “But like I said, and I keep reiterating, what I said when I first came to the team, we’ve got a lot of good veteran players as well as young players in here. And anybody can replace anybody at any given time. That’s what makes this group so amazing.”
Johnson has scored from the penalty spot in United’s last two matches and also assisted on Perry Kitchen’s goal in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Chivas USA.
Kitchen has emerged as a set-piece specialist, scoring three goals from dead-ball situations, including two in a three-match win streak that has kept D.C. (10-4-5, 34 points) in second place in the Eastern Conference
“He’s always been a force on the set piece stuff, and he anticipates the second (ball) very well,” said D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen. “It’s great. You need that in a season, if you want to make playoffs, you need contributions from other guys.”
Luis Silva now has five goals, including an insurance tally against Chivas and a game-winner in a 2-1 win at San Jose on July 11.
Meanwhile, Chris Rolfe has become a catalyst since arriving in a trade from Chicago in April. He’s drawn a penalty and contributed an assist in United’s last two matches.
That said, D.C. still owes a major share of its success to goalkeeper Bill Hamid. The 23-year-old made a string of sensational second-half saves against San Jose, and, last Saturday, was announced as a first-time MLS All Star.
“I think there are stretches where I’m playing well, and what the coaches are harping on me is, ‘You know, you’re playing well, but let’s keep it consistent, let’s keep going, how good does it feel?’” Hamid said. “And I look in the mirror and I say, ‘Man it feels great to be playing this well and to be helping my team.’”
United is slated to open its CCL schedule at home on August 20 against Jamaica’s Waterhouse.