Fabian Espindola makes a difference. Back from a six-game suspension because of injury, Espindola played the final 45 minutes and sparked DC United to a 3-1win over the Chicago Fire Wednesday at RFK Stadium.
The win extended the Black and Red’s home unbeaten streak across all competitions to a new franchise record of 20 games. Of note United can claim 16 wins and four ties in its run of success on East Capitol Street.
While United struggled to connect and threaten in the first half, the Fire seized a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute on a finish from David Accam after wonderful combination play from Harry Shipp and Quincy Amerikwa.
United head coach Ben Olsen probably would have waited to insert Espindola into the match, but instead turned to Espindola to start the second half after a tepid opening 45 minutes and the one-goal deficit. Espindola replaced Miguel Aguilar, who started the game on the right flank. Aguilar was active and provided some moments, but United needed something else.
Espindola changed the tone of the game and had two assists. Jairo Arrieta scored two goals and Conor Doyle scored for the first time since August of 2013 to complete the comeback.
1. The Espindola difference. In some ways it is amazing that United is securely in first place in the Eastern Conference and Fabian Esopindola has only appeared in three matches because of injury and suspension. Clearly United knows how to win without him, but on Wednesday when Espindola teamed with Jairo Arrieta in the second half they immediately put pressure on the Fire’s center backs. Espindola navigated into channels, pressed high, and as a consequence opened up the field for more sustained pressure from United. Espindola’s entrance into the game also pushed Conor Doyle to the midfield where he found more joy and eventually a goal.
2. Dykstra to the rescue. With Bill Hamid resting some nagging ailments, Andrew Dykstra started and impressed. In the first half Dykstra saved a penalty and then in the second half preserved a 2-1 lead when he denied a point blank shot from Quincy Amerikwa with an amazing reaction save.
3. Welcome home Halsti. For United off-season signing Markus Halsti Wednesday marked his home debut in a United uniform. As was the case in his previous two appearances in road matches Halsti provided glue to United’s midfield. Halsti disrupts on defense and provides vision on offense.
4. Team is resilient. United’s strength in numbers is a very real concept. In 15 matches, United has 12 different starting lineups. Of 27 players on United’s roster, twenty four have now appeared in league games. Only Jalen Robinson, Collin Martin (injury) and Michael Seaton (on loan in Sweden) have not played this season.