DC United is very much, well united. Heading into Saturday’s home match again the Columbus Crew (Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on CSN), the Black and Red has had many observers scratching their heads. The team doesn’t score much, often doesn’t dominate games, but is sitting on top of the Eastern Conference.
Through seven games United has collected 14 points or two points per game which is the highest average in Major League Soccer. The impressive point total was gathered even while leading scorer Fabian Espindola served a six-game suspension. Espindola’s suspension in part might explain the light goal total with only eight tallies from seven matches.
Espindola was back this past Saturday and, while he didn’t score, he energized, created, and overall brightened United’s attack. In the 2-1 win over the Vancouver, it is no coincidence for only the second time this season United scored two goals with Espindola back occupying opposing defenders.
There are no off nights in MLS. Since a 1-0 win over expansion Orlando City, United has had to deal with the New York Red Bulls, Houston Dynamo, and Vancouver Whitecaps and each brought confidence and conviction to matches against United. The same can be said of the Columbus Crew with an unbeaten string of four matches that has produced nine goals.
- Build with Espindola. As we noted Espindola immediately made a difference in his MLS season debut against Vancouver. Now against Columbus United has a chance to develop a true offensive rhythm with Espindola set to start his second game of the season. What is clear is that United has a strong spine up the middle. Espindola sets the tone at the top, Perry Kitchen provides the glue in midfield, and Bobby Boswell has been a rock at the back. Kofi Opare has stepped in for Steve Birnbaum and has been a perfect partner for Boswell in the center of the defense. Last week Chris Rolfe, after playing the first six games on the flank, started with Espindola at forward. Where ever he plays Rolfe has been a difference maker. In short United has been winning games as a collective unit and now can look to impose its will more with Espindola back in the side.
- Break up the Crew. When given time and space the Crew can be a real menace on offense. The seven goals over the last weeks were against strugglers Orlando and Philadelphia, but that does diminish the danger factor offered by Kei Kamara and Ethan Finlay. Kamara has bagged five goals and United will have to respect his speed and clever runs. Finlay can finish and score, but provides excellent service form the right flank.