September 21, 2019

D.C. United Analysis: First-quarter evaluation, part 4 – Forwards

Looking at the performance of D.C. United’s forwards is an exercise of examining extremes. On one hand, the one that United fans would rather focus on right now, there’s Fabian Espindola, the offseason acquisition who has four goals and three assists in nine matches. On the other, of course, is Eddie Johnson, the much more notable and expensive offseason acquisition, who has yet to score at all.

The overall performance of the position so far during United’s 4-3-2 start to the 2014 Major League Soccer season is somewhere in the middle. But it should be noted that Espindola already has more league goals this year than any United player had for all of the 2013 season. Espindola’s production (his three assists are tied with Nick DeLeon for the team lead), being involved somehow in seven of the 13 goals United has scored this season (not to mention involvement in scoring plays later counted as own goals), hasn’t necessarily masked Johnson’s struggles, but it has allowed United to succeed somewhat so far despite them.

United fans, Johnson’s teammates, and head coach Ben Olsen have to have been thinking to this point that Johnson would start putting goals home sooner rather than later, and it was hard to envision that now nine matches into the year, Johnson would still be looking for his first goal. You couldn’t blame him for being frustrated, and being left off the 30-man provisional roster for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the World Cup this summer certainly won’t sit well.

Johnson and his United teammates can’t rely on Espindola to carry the majority of the load for much longer. He’s on pace for 15 goals and 11 assists for the full campaign. At 29, you could argue that Espindola is simply having a career year and his numbers will show that. But in his eighth MLS season, Espindola’s career high in goals is 10 (2011, Real Salt Lake) and his career assist high is seven (2012, RSL). It’s not realistic to expect Espindola to continue at this pace.

If Espindola’s form slows to his norm, and Johnson still isn’t scoring, United will have problems. Conor Doyle has provided some valuable minutes late in matches with fresh legs running at tired defenses, and Chris Rolfe can work up top if need be (two goals, one assist this season). But the top two, together, have to produce. But like Espindola’s career-best scoring, it simply also isn’t realistic to think Johnson won’t bring results at some point.

When exactly that point is will be the biggest question mark facing United over the next portion of the season.

NOTE:  D.C. United has reached a deal with CBS Radio to have all regular season matches heard in English on 106.7 FM The Fan, as well as in Spanish on 107.9 FM El Zol, WLZL, the club announced this week. For Saturday’s match vs. Montreal, however, the English feed will be on 1580-AM.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

%d bloggers like this: