WASHINGTON – Maicon Santos is frustrated.
Despite entering the home stretch of a season in which the D.C. United striker has scored seven goals (one shy of his career high) and played in 20 matches, the Brazilian striker is unfulfilled – at least when it comes to his life on the field, or lack thereof, at the moment.
“This summer has been kind of awful for me,” Santos said following Thursday’s training session. “Now I’m getting back from [a toe] injury and I’m feeling pretty good right now. I’m starting to get back in shape at training.”
Starting in late March and running through April, Santos scored six times over the course of six matches, recording two braces during that stretch. He notched his seventh goal (a game-winner) on May 26 against New England, but hasn’t scored since.
A right toe injury has been the biggest detriment to Santos’ progress, but the frequent rotation at D.C.’s No. 9 position hasn’t helped either. With Hamdi Salihi, Long Tan, Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius and, most recently, Lionard Pajoy all receiving time up top at one point or another for Ben Olsen’s side, the 28-year-old has found it increasingly hard to grab minutes.
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Now, Santos said he feels “pretty good” and has been training with the team at full speed in the hopes of regaining his early season form.
“I just work and focus right now,” he said. "I work hard every day to get my shape back and get back to the same way I was playing."
More than any other factor, a nagging toe injury contributed to Santos’ declining form in the summer months. Fortunately, that seems to be a problem left in the past.
“I think it was more of a stretch of being exhausted or being tired,” Santos said. "In practice I injured my toe, too. Now that’s over."
After playing the full 90 in a 4-0 loss against Houston on July 15, he logged 48 minutes combined in D.C.’s next two matches against Columbus before getting hurt. Santos missed five matches but subbed on in the 81st minute of a 1-0 loss against Real Salt Lake last Saturday.
Whether Santos will find his way back into the starting XI – he started 10 of the club’s first 12 matches – remains to be seen. But with Olsen seemingly pleased with Pajoy of late, minutes might be difficult to come by.
“I’m very glad we picked up Pajoy,” Olsen said. “He’s done a great job and I’ve been amazed at his stamina throughout this period. I think he brings the work we’re looking for up there.
“Now, Maicon brings another threat that we can use in September when we have a bunch of games and we’re going to need him,” he continued. “He’s fresh and I think he’s excited to get back out there and play. But he’s also been out for a lot, so there’s rust and there’s a fitness issue that we need to work on.”
Sixth-place United have the weekend off and will play host to New England on Sept. 15 for the first of seven remaining regular-season matches on D.C.’s schedule.
“This is the perfect time for me. For the guys, too,” Santos said. “[I need to] get back working hard to get back in my shape. This is the perfect time.”