Fabian Espindola, shown above playing for Real Salt Lake against Monterrey in the 2010/11 CONCACAF Champions League final, could be in D.C. United's line-up for its CCL match against Waterhouse FC on August 20, 2014. (Photo: Mexpsort)
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Of all D.C. United’s veterans, Fabian Espindola has come closer than any to ultimate glory in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL).
The Argentinean played a key role on the 2010/11 Real Salt Lake side that came within a goal of becoming the first team from Major League Soccer to capture the continental crown since the CCL launched in 2008.
“I really wanted to win that final,” said Espindola. “It would’ve been great for the league, for the team. After that, the pride that you have that, playing against those big teams, it would’ve been great.”
Now in his first season in the nation’s capital, the 29-year-old will get another bite of the CCL apple beginning Wednesday, when Jamaica’s Waterhouse FC (1-0-0, 3 points) visits RFK Stadium for a Group 4 encounter.
And after his 2011 experience, D.C.’s leading scorer says now is as good a time as ever to be entering the continental competition.
“I think MLS teams and Mexican teams are very even right now, so that’s a good thing,” said Espindola, who did concede that Liga MX squads may have more depth. “I think the biggest part is, they have like 35 players on their roster, and when you play two championships, that’s a big thing.”
Espindola’s recent return to the field followed a nearly two-month absence due to a right MCL sprain. His good health will be crucial if United are to progress out of the CCL’s group stage.
It was shaping up as a career year for Espindola, who saw action for most of the second half in what was an already decided 3-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
He has already set a career high in assists with eight after dishing out three before suffering the injury in United’s 4-2 victory at Montreal on June 11. Plus, with seven goals, Espindola is three away from equaling his 2010 mark.
“I’m not sure it’s realistic for anybody in terms of a normal game and what you’re getting out of it,” said United assistant coach Chad Ashton. “But I think it was significant for him just to get real minutes, be able to run his lungs out in altitude, and I think it sets him up to succeed moving forward.”