Through the rain and snow the grit and determination of Fabian Espindola was clear as he combined with Jairo Arrieta to provide a menacing attack for United against Alajuelense in CONCACAF Champions League play. That was on March 4th and that was the last time Espindola suited up for DC United.
Despite the 2-1 win over Alajuelense on that stormy night, United’s run in the CCL came to an abrupt end and because of a six-game suspension from an incident in last fall’s playoffs so did Espindola’s competitive activity. The six-game suspension has been served and Espindola is likely to return to the field when United plays Saturday in Vancouver.
Before the season there was concern about how United would fare without Espindola, but Saturday’s game between United and Whitecaps FC is a matchup between two of the early season leaders in MLS. Indeed United more than survived Espindola’s absence and has put together a more than acceptable 3-1-2 record.
- Integrating Espindola. Working Espindola back into United’s attacking rotation is a nice problem to have for head coach Ben Olsen. Eventually Espindola and Luis Silva are likely to continue their strike partnership that delivered 22 of United’s 52 goals last season. For Saturday it would seem more likely that Espindola would be used as a substitute against the Whitecaps. United needs the skill and guile of Espindola to add bite to its attack. United has only six goals in six matches and ranks 14th in MLS in shots. Perry Kitchen is United’s leading scorer with two goals, and while that is a credit to him, it is not his role to be the leading scorer.
- Dealing with the Whitecaps attack. The Whitecaps lead MLS with 10 goals from eight matches and also lead the league in shots and shot on goal. United will have to especially be on guard for the Whitecaps counterattack. Octavio Rivero blazed out to a hot start with five goals in his first six games, but has been held scoreless in the last two games. Rivero will be motivated and it is possible he could link up with Darren Mattocks who delivered the match winner last week against Real Salt Lake. In short the Whitecaps have speed, skill, and options and their first place standing in the Western Conference is justified.