WASHINGTON – He may be a Designated Player, but Hamdi Salihi is learning what many of his predecessors have learned before him: It’s not as easy to adjust to Major League Soccer when all the expectations are on you.
The Albanian striker has appeared in three of D.C. United’s first four games, and has yet to do the thing he was brought to the team to do: score. But D.C. head coach Ben Olsen continues to back his DP, and has taken note of the amount of effort Salihi gives every match.
WATCH: Salihi putback cleared off line
“His work rate has been great, he’s doing a lot of work off the ball,” Olsen told MLSsoccer.com. “At times, we are not rewarding him for that, [but] he’s getting better each game, and that’s what we have asked of him.”
Salihi came closest to breaking his duck last Friday against FC Dallas. The 28-year-old was sent through brilliantly late in the game, but put his shot right at Kevin Hartman, a golden opportunity missed.
That was only the most recent near-miss for the former Austrian league star. Earlier in the match, he saw his shot cleared off the line by FCD’s Zach Loyd. Against Vancouver two weeks ago, he was denied a sure headed goal by a stunning save by Joe Cannon.
With that in mind, Olsen has the sense that it’s just a matter of time before Salihi opens his account.
“He’s got a couple of chances at goal, but they haven’t fallen for him,” Olsen said. “So he just hasn’t gotten off the mark yet, but if he continues to play the way he is playing, that will come.”
Olsen adds that he doesn’t think Salihi is having trouble adjusting, as many foreigners have throughout league history, and believes the striker’s experience in Europe has prepared him well for life in MLS.
“The speed of play isn’t too fast for him, that’s for sure,” Olsen said. “It always takes a little bit of time, and he’ll continue to grow, and I think he will be just fine.”