WASHINGTON – Two games into their 2014 MLS season, and D.C. United have yet to find the back of the net.
Ambitiously overhauled after the worst season in MLS history, United's attacking corps features the likes of US national team forward Eddie Johnson and veteran MLS striker Fabian Espindola. In theory, it's a duo that should produce goals.
In reality, progress has been slow. Over 180 minutes, United have fewer shots on goal (three) than goals conceded (four).
“As a forward, you always have to score,” Espindola told MLSsoccer.com after a snowy training session at RFK Stadium's auxiliary fields on Tuesday morning. “But what frustrates me more is to not have the ball with time and space, with a chance to run at players and create dangerous plays, to help Eddie more than anything.
“If I score, that’s great. I'm not worried about that though, I’m more worried just about contributing in any possible way.”
Espindola and Johnson seemed at times out of sync during Saturday's 1-0 loss to Toronto, and some of that can be chalked up to unfamiliarity. It's worth noting, however, that United aren't the only team with new pieces. Both clubs they've faced in 2014, the Columbus Crew and TFC, have their share of new faces, and are managing to score goals.
So where's the disconnect? On Tuesday, both strikers preached patience while focusing on the progress they'd seen.
“Fabi is a great player," Johnson reflected. “But it’s gonna take more than two games to get that chemistry right. He likes to get on the ball – when he’s not touching the ball up top, he likes to drift wide and get on the ball and try and make the game there. When he gets wide and drifts deep, it has to be me: I have to get on the same page and be dangerous, find those combinations with him to be effective.”
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Added Espindola: “In Toronto, it was more than anything that we didn’t stay compact. Our communication in general wasn’t very strong as a team. But I think things will get better.”
Still, Johnson is painfully aware of the expectations heaped on him. While EJ was open about his disappointment at his club's offensive production, he also stressed the importance of his teammates to his goalscoring prowess.
“If we're talking about individual goals – getting shots, being dangerous, putting yourself in good spots – I’ve had no shots on goal, and that’s very frustrating to me,” said the US national team striker. “In order to get in dangerous spots, though, it takes a team effort. It takes our midfielders to get in good spots to give our forwards a chance to get goals. I feel like we haven’t been on the same page these past two games.
“That’ll come, though. We still have work to do.”