WASHINGTON – Just moments after leaving the pitch following D.C. United’s 1-0 victory over Kansas City on Saturday evening, Fabian Espindola set up camp on the locker room floor at RFK stadium.
Aside from your typical postgame accessories – a protein shake and some stretching equipment – Espindola held something a bit different in his right hand: a box of Kleenex.
“I’m exhausted,” Espindola told MLSsoccer.com in a Spanish-language interview. “I don’t know if it’s because [Kansas City] made me run so damn much or because I’ve been sick – I had a fever, was throwing up, had a lot of congestion. I’m definitely feeling that I didn’t train for two days, as well. This was the hardest game I’ve played in a D.C. uniform. I’m totally worn out.”
"He’s a warrior, man,” United head coach Ben Olsen said after the match. "What you guys didn’t know, he was throwing up Wednesday, all day. He’s been out for two days and he shows up on Friday ready to go. We’ve had a bug with this team now for a good 10 days. Hopefully it’s run its course."
Nevertheless, the Argentine scored an audacious – though possibly unintentional – goal in the 28th minute, a bending ball from 25 yards out that many in attendance probably figured was a cross.
When asked whether his attempt at goal was an intentional one, a wry smile came over the exhausted forward’s face.
"I don’t know,” Espindola said, chuckling. "Look at the tape – if I lifted my head up, we’ll say that I saw the 'keeper come off his line and I scored intentionally. If not, we’ll just call it a cross.”
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Olsen gave a more certain answer: "I think he tried to chip him. Some of our other players might say differently – but Fabi’s got a nice arrogance about him."
Whether intentional or not, they all count the same.
The goal was Espindola’s seventh of the year, supplemented by a near-career-high five assists. His offensive production has been key in United’s turnaround and puts him in Best XI territory. It’s something not lost on Olsen, who on Saturday suggested that Espindola’s production was hardly a surprise.
"Fabi needs freedom,” Olsen reflected. “He needs to be able to offset defenses and not be constricted, and I think we’ve given him that here. It’s funny because you guys haven’t talked a lot about him. And that’s fine – it’s certainly fine with Fabi.
"I think he’s been as good as any player in this league up to this point. But no, it doesn’t surprise me because he’s been doing this for a long time in this league. He’s a guy you never wanted to play against as a coach or as a player because of how unpredictable and ruthless he is.”