With EJ suspended, Luis Silva & Fabian Espindola make case for new forward pairing in DC United romp

WASHINGTON – Luis Silva and Fabian Espindola sure seem to like playing together.

The two featured heavily in Sunday evening’s encounter against the Colorado Rapids, as D.C. United rode a Silva brace and Espindola insurance tally to a 4-2 blowout victory. Espindola was playing just his second match – his first full start and 90-minute shift – since returning from injury, while Silva was filling in for a suspended Eddie Johnson.

To say the two have combined well in 2014 would be a gross understatement: In the 118 minutes the pair have been on the field together, Silva has scored five times, while Espindola has contributed a goal and three assists.

After Sunday’s match, United head coach Ben Olsen attributed some of the duo’s success to their off-the-field chemistry.

"I think sometimes when you are tight with someone,” Olsen said, “it translates onto the field. I think they have a good relationship in the locker room and outside of the game. I think they just have an understanding."

“[Espindola and I] understand each other pretty well,” Silva added. “If I stay high, he drops. If he stays high, I drop. We share the work defensively and offensively as well, so I think that helps a lot.”

Espindola has spent most of 2014 paired with Johnson, with mixed results. While the Argentine was putting together an MVP-caliber year before his knee injury, Johnson’s 2014 has been a bit more of a mixed bag – he’s found ways to contribute but hasn’t produced the sort of numbers that United may have expected when they signed him to a Designated Player contract in the offseason.

When asked what the difference is between the two pairings, the former Real Salt Lake forward was happy to elaborate.

“It’s totally different playing with Silva than it is playing with EJ,” Espindola told MLSsoccer.com after the match. "With Luis, you want to put the ball at his feet or find him for a combination; with EJ, it’s totally the opposite. You can put the ball anywhere near him, he’ll make use of his strength to find it. But both of them are great players.

“Luis is doing great work. I can hear him all the time from behind me, he tells me all the time where he’s at when I can’t see him – wide left, man on, turn, all that [expletive] that helps a lot, you know?"

Asked whether he’d consider pairing Espindola and Silva together on a more permanent basis, Olsen remained diplomatic and noncommittal. But it would be hard not to at least consider keeping the duo on the field after Johnson returns from suspension, something the coach was quick to acknowledge.

"I’ll consider it next game [when Johnson is still suspended], that’s for sure,” Olsen said. "We’ll keep moving forward. If they continue to do well, it’ll be tough to take them off the park. We’re gonna need everybody. This isn’t about one or two players, and tonight was a team response."