WASHINGTON – After traveling with the teaM but not playing against Montreal last Saturday because he fell ill, D.C. United rookie Nick DeLeon was more than OK in Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw against New York.
The University of Louisville product scored in the first half and assisted captain Dwayne De Rosario’s 100th career regular-season MLS goal in the second half.
“That’s unbelievable. That’s a great mark, 100 goals. That’s something to strive for," DeLeon said. "As far as the assist, that goal is all him. He out-jumped [goalkeeper Bill Gaudette] and made a good judgment call.”
With five goals, DeLeon has tied the D.C. rookie record set by Andy Najar (2010), Santino Quaranta (2005) and Freddy Adu (2004). He also became the sixth player with at least five goals on United’s roster this season.
Highlights: DC 2, NYRB 2
Since sitting out four consecutive matches in May, DeLeon has started nine of 12 games and played the full 90 minutes in his last four starts. Against New York he proved a force, frequently distributing and creating from the right side of the midfield.
“I felt really tired. My energy was drained," DeLeon said after the match. "I was struggling there at the end, but I pushed through it and gave it my all. I’m feeling a lot better now.”
Pajoy adjusting well
Though forward Lionard Pajoy didn’t attempt a shot Wednesday, United coach Ben Olsen was pleased with the Colombian’s effort. D.C.’s newest No. 9 played 90 minutes and constantly drew the attention of New York’s back line, creating two fouls.
“I thought he was great. I think we’re very lucky we got him,” Olsen said. “The amount of ground he covers is pretty impressive. He’s played more minutes this week than anybody and he just keeps going.”
Since being traded from Philadelphia, Pajoy has started four games with D.C., logging 314 minutes. He has one goal on five shots.
“It’s his fourth game, so it’s going to take time. It’s a tough position to be in to come halfway through the season, but I think he’s done real well,” De Rosario said. “He’s played the role quite nicely. … I’m glad to have him on this team because he’s definitely going to help us push to the playoffs.”
Russell’s health improving
After missing more than a month with plantar fasciitis, defender Robbie Russell returned to training earlier this week and said he’s now at about “90 percent.”
“It’s all positive, man. Just getting back on the field ahead of schedule right now is great,” Russell said. “Every day that I’m training and things go well is a plus.”
The five-year veteran has missed seven matches since injuring himself against Houston and undergoing fat-derived stem cell therapy, a relatively new procedure, on a tendon in his left foot.
“Now it’s about getting the fitness down and making sure nothing else happens to the foot,” Russell said.
For the second consecutive home match, United scored a game-tying goal roughly two minutes after their opponent.
DeLeon’s strike came in the 21st minute after Joel Lindpere scored in the 19th minute. Against Chicago, Lionard Pajoy answered Daniel Paladini’s 44th-minute tally two minutes later.
Six times this season, United have answered an opponents’ goal within four minutes.